The Nation Municipality council has approved its budget for 2017. Taxpayers in the municipality will contribute $300,000 more in 2017 compared with 2016, which is about a 2.79 per cent increase. “We have to increase, because cost of living, hydro, police costs, all go up,” said Francois St-Amour, Mayor of The Nation.

The increase is about equivalent to the increase in property evaluations in the municipality, said  St-Amour. The municipality says while residential properties decreased slightly in value, agricultural properties’ evaluations increased by 16.67 per cent on average. There was also growth in 2017, he said: an estimated $33 million worth of construction, including 116 new residential units. There was growth in the agricultural sector as well, with four new poultry farms built, a few of which are valued at over a million dollars.

The big increase in the value of agricultural land will mean higher taxes for farmers, but St-Amour said that shouldn’t be a surprise. “Everybody knows, or should have known, property values of farms have gone up, have shot through the roof, actually,” he said. “You’re going to get some debate about fair or not fair, but they all have the same mechanism to contest the evaluations.”

A press release from the municipality listed “big projects” in store for 2017, including construction of seasonal household hazardous waste stations in Fournier and Limoges. The stations will accept hazardous waste for free from residents every Saturday between May and October.

The municipality is also extending water service to about 20 new homes in St-Isidore, and upgrading its sewage lagoon and building a new water reservoir in Limoges. Those projects are paid for by water and sewer user fees.

A new municipal garage and salt dome will be built on Pommainville Road in Limoges, at a cost of about $3 million. The municipality says it will also invest $1.4 million in roads, sidewalks and street lights in 2017.

In recreation, The Nation is upgrading the St-Albert Community Centre in order to make it compliant with fire code. Improvements are also planned for Limoges’ baseball diamond. The Nation is spending about $110,000 on parks in 2017, a $12,000 increase over last year’s spending. The new St-Isidore Library Branch, housed in a building donated by Scotiabank in 2016, will also be renovated, along with the municipal office, where some walls will be removed in order to create a more open work space, and bathrooms will be improved.

The municipality’s most expensive facility is the St-Isidore arena. There, $510,422 in expenses is expected to be offset by $237,500 in revenues in 2017. Caledonia Hall, St-Albert Hall, and Pavillon Hall are each expected to cost about $100,000 to operate in 2017, with the cost for the municipality offset by revenues between $33,000 and $46,000 for each. Overall, The Nation intends to spend $635,595 maintaining its various halls in 2017, a number which includes a $135,832 cost for the recreation director.

The fire department, after spending $558,555 of a $987,783 budget in 2016, saw its budget cut by $28,000. There was leftover money because the municipality decided not to go ahead with improvements at its fire halls, said St-Amour. Those improvements are still on hold, he said, but some money has been budgeted for emergency communications, radios, and an increase in dispatch costs. While most Prescott-Russell municipalities want to buy fire dispatch services from Ottawa instead of Hawkesbury, switching over has proven complicated. Ottawa wants all of the municipalities to join its services as a group, and has also asked for infrastructure improvements. St-Amour said The Nation is saving money for antennas and for switching over to digital communication for dispatch in the next few years. “For (Ottawa) it’s a liability issue and I don’t blame them,” he said.

The overall operating budget for 2017 is $17,533,065. Last year’s was $16,364,128. There is $18,541,645 budgeted for capital projects, but much of that will be paid for with user fees from water and sewer, not tax revenues. The Nation plans to collect $10,173,585 in taxes from its residents in 2017, up from $9,875,261.