Essex County Council Approves 2018 Budget
Essex County Council unanimously passed a budget that will see a 1.5% increase in 2018, that's down from a proposed 2% hike.
County Treasurer and CAO Robert Maisonville says there's some ground to make up in several areas — but trying to "double-up" through tax increases won't help.
"We've looked at how we could phase in some of the expansion issues we're addressing in order to bring in the 1.5%. We know going forward that with growth we can match that," he says. "It's been a long term plan, so whether it’s through capital planning or these operational items, we try to phase in and get there over the long-term. "
Nearly $12-million dollars will be invested in Emergency Medical Services in 2018 — almost a $2-million jump from 2017, according to Maisonville.
"The most significant service enhancement is in EMS, just addressing the year over year call volume increase," says Maisonville. "We needed to finally address service enhancements."
Maisonville tells AM800 News social-housing issues ranks a close second to a need for technology and staffing upgrades for EMS services.
The federal government recently announced $11.2-billion in funding for social housing over the next 10 years — but with uncertainty on how much of that money the county will see — Maisonville says council will continue to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
"There's issues with regards to the housing stock needing refurbishment, and we've been trying to put away a little bit of dollars every year for the past several years, but we didn't realize how fast this could hit us," he says. "The ask from the county perspective is greater than $10-million and they're going to try and phase that in over the next five years. "
Maisonville says there's currently $800,000 built into the 2018 budget for social housing with reserves available if needed.
The tax increase equates to an extra $14.46 per household for 2018, according to a report brought before council.