2014 will be a conservative
year for Kincardine,
By Liz Dadson
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Kincardine will have to focus on sustainability in 2014 which will be another fairly conservative year, says mayor Larry Kraemer.
Reflecting on 2013 and looking ahead to this year, Kraemer said council has worked hard to maintain a reasonable budget in the face of major challenges.
"We had no large buildings or significant capital projects last year," he said.
In the fall, Kincardine hosted the Joint Review Panel hearing into Ontario Power Generation (OPG)'s proposed Deep Geologic Repository (DGR) for low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste at the Bruce Nuclear site in Kincardine.
"That was the culmination of a decade of work," said Kraemer. "We were glad to have it over. Now, we await a decision from the panel, likely in late spring of 2014."
The natural gas project is a major one for Kincardine, said Kraemer, noting that it has advanced to the point where council has authorized the creation of a company, and is moving forward with the selection of the preferred option for bringing natural gas to the communities of Kincardine, Huron-Kinloss and Arran-Elderslie.
"This is the furthest this project has ever come," he said. "The two big stages now are to create a corporation, and to choose the preferred option."
He said there are three options:
Or the preferred option could be a hybrid of these three, said Kraemer. "These proposals will improve the project, technically and financially. It's a major project and we have to do it right."
He hopes something can be presented in 2014, prior to the Oct. 27 municipal election.
"We want to have a proposal ready to go to the Ontario Energy Board," said Kraemer, "and then get a mandate through the election process."
Other significant projects that took place in 2013, he said, include:
As for 2014, Kraemer said the province continues to balance its books on the backs of municipalities.
"We're facing another tough budget, due to changes to provincial funding," he said.
The Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund money decreases by $211,000 this year, said Kraemer, which equates to two per cent on the tax rate.
The OPP policing contract increases by $175,000 which is another two per cent on the tax rate.
"So, before we even started budget talks, we had a four-per-cent hike in taxes," said Kraemer. "And we have about $700,000 on the tax rate for capital projects when we need $2-million to $2.5-million to be sustainable."
He said budget deliberations have been difficult for the past five to six years because Kincardine has been drawing on reserves to buffer the hikes in the tax rate, but that is not sustainable.
"Council has to be conservative, and yet, this is an election year," Kraemer said, with a laugh.
Items to be considered in 2014, include:
Kincardine mayor Larry Kraemer will announce in early summer whether he is running for re-election in October
Kraemer said the current council has worked together quite well.
"It's been an interesting council because, besides myself as mayor, it's 50-50 men and women," he said. "It's a good council. We've tackled some difficult issues and managed to get things done.
"I think the committee-of-the-whole system has worked well for us. It has shown significant savings and efficiencies for the municipality. This council did it right by streamlining that system."
The next thing council must tackle is a conservative budget, somewhere in the neighbourhood of a three- to four-per-cent increase in the tax rate, said Kraemer.
"Sustainability is the key issue," he said. "Right now, we have too big a gap in the capital program. We have $100-million in capital assets, so we need more than $700,000 per year to maintain that. We need about $2-million."
This is an election year, said Kraemer, and he hopes candidates will come forward for all positions to make it a truly democratic process.
"Kincardine is one municipality that takes democracy seriously," he said. "Most elections, we've had a full slate of candidates, and every position was fought for. That's as it should be."
As to whether he will run for re-election, Kraemer said he will make that decision in early summer.
"I would like to continue in order to see the natural gas project through," he said. "I can think of nothing more beneficial for our municipality than that project."
In the meantime, Kraemer wished everyone a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
"I'm looking forward to a great year," he said.
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Sunday, January 05, 2014