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  • Writer's pictureHunter Cresswell

$3M budget sneaks by in Low

Low residents call for more information

Low council was one vote from not passing its 2022 budget.

Mayor Carole Robert cast the tiebreaker vote in favour of the $3,022,029 budget, which includes a 5.06 per cent tax increase for average taxpayers, during a special council meeting on the evening of Feb. 28 in Low Heritage Hall. All councillors were present and five residents sat in the crowd.

Low Mayor Carole Robert cast the tiebreaker vote to pass the 2022 budget during a Feb. 28 meeting. Hunter Cresswell photo
Low Mayor Carole Robert cast the tiebreaker vote to pass the 2022 budget during a Feb. 28 meeting. Hunter Cresswell photo

Councillors Maureen Rice, Luc Thivierge, and Lee Angus voted against the budget. Earlier in the meeting when asked about the budget process, Rice said that people had scheduling issues when trying to meet to draft the budget, not all councillors were involved all the time, and she had issues with some of the numbers. Thivierge similarly said that he had a “hard time with some of the numbers” in the budget.

In approving the budget, council voted to raise the mill rate.

The property tax mill rate in Low is now 1.057 per $100 of assessed value, up from 1.029 per $100 of assessed value in 2021.

Of the five audience members, three spoke up during the question period to call for better information on the budget, taxes and process from the council.

“Can we not do better if we’re increasing costs? I’m not seeing an increase in services, but I’m seeing an increase in tax,” Low resident Tara Wakeling asked.

Councillor Ghyslain Robert said that, for example, public works costs are up because trucks are old and require either more maintenance or replacement; costs – especially for gas – are up; and there is more work being done.

“There’s more work on the roads now than four years ago,” councillor Joanne Mayer specified.

“Not on any roads I drive,” Wakeling responded.

“We hear you and we’ll work on something better,” Mayer told Wakeling.

But that wasn’t good enough for Low resident Steve Connolly.

“There was so little told to us tonight,” he said to council, later adding, “none of the councillors told us what’s happening in their areas. Now we’re in a position where we have to suck it out of you. Do you want me to ask 500 questions? No.”

Another resident, who left the meeting before the Low Down could confirm his name, spoke up later with a similar point. He asked for council to include more information on the budget and taxes to be published at least a week in advance of the meeting so that people could come better prepared and informed during the budget meetings.

“I only had this,” he said holding a printout of the budget presentation, “an hour ago, so I can’t really make comments on it.”

When the Low Down asked about the municipal debt load during the meeting, Mayor Robert said, “We’ll have to get back to you.”

Councillor Robert ended the meeting by calling for council to address residents’ concerns during the next budget process by getting it done earlier and sharing more information ahead of the meeting. Mayor Robert and other councillors agreed.

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