The hours of operation at Sarnia City Hall are set to change. December 5, 2017 (Photo by Melanie Irwin)

2018 City Tax Rate Set

Sarnia Council has set a 2018 budget amounting to $139.6- million.

The budget will see $75-million raised through taxation, representing an increase of 3.67% or $33 per $100,000 of assessment on the municipal portion of the property tax bill.

Council set the tax rate in just over three hours of deliberations at City Hall Tuesday, trimming just under $1-million from the original draft budget.

Operational changes, including a reduction in work hours at City hall and Sarnia transit office, were approved in an effort to cut $84,000 in costs.

The buildings will now close a half hour early each day, at 4:30pm instead of 5pm and City hall will also close between Christmas and New Years.

The changes weren’t supported by Mayor Mike Bradley — who for a second year in a row didn’t endorse the budget.

“I’m just not pleased with the direction of the city,” Bradley said after the meeting. “More staff, more debt, closing city hall from Christmas to New Years. We rejected that many times in the past, saying that we’re driven by serving the citizens of the community and we’re also cutting back on the hours that city hall is open. That’s not the sort of city hall that I want to see in Sarnia in the future and I cannot vote for a document that does all those things.”

Councillor Brian White understands the changes won’t be welcomed by everyone.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow early on when you see changes, especially to hours, but when you look at the shift in demand to online and 24 hour service — that goes across the board and that’s nothing new to Sarnia,” says White. “We’re just playing catch-up with that right now and unfortunately without assessment growth, we can’t afford to just add on all the time without redesigning some of the other ways that we deliver the service.”

Sarnia Police had its $2-million proposal to replace the communication system reduced to $1.5-million, but dodged a bullet when council defeated a motion which would have asked the service to further reduce its operating budget by $150,000.

Two probationary firefighters will be hired in 2018 to reduce overtime costs and cope with long term vacancies.

Council decided to get rid of one of 15 compost and leaf collection days, and two of five scheduled brush collection days in the city next year to save about $58,000.

$250,000 was also put back into the budget for Canatara Park upgrades.