At the November 13 UCPR council committee of the whole meeting, mayors made budget decisions involving various expenses, council remuneration, and support for subsidized residents of private care facilities. A notable change is that mayors will be paid on a per capita basis, set at 35 cents per resident, which represents a 40 per cent salary hike for mayors who sit as members of counties council.

When council met on October 23, mayors voted to keep the 2020 tax rate increase at three per cent.  Now-retired Treasurer Julie Ménard-Brault’s draft budget initially had the increase at 3.3 per cent.

On November 13, new Treasurer Valérie Parisien told the mayors that the rate had been reduced to 2.77 per cent, but other expenses the mayors approved that day mean there will be further adjustments to keep the rate increase to three per cent.

According to 2020 revised draft budget documents, the counties expect to be collecting $47,207,300 from municipalities in 2020; this amount includes $900,000 attributed to growth from increased property assessments.

Parisien explained that the projected tax revenue is based on the 2019 assessment roll, which was $11,908,339,229.  The UCPR will only receive its updated 2020 roll on December 10, 2019.

Expenses added to the budget include a $10,000 contribution to the Eastern Ontario Wardens Caucus (EOWC), which is the organization of all county governments east of Toronto, $52,000 in 2020 insurance premiums for the UCPR, and a $683,085 contribution to the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN), the project to improve internet and mobile phone service across the eastern part of the province.

The mayors also approved an earlier suggestion made by Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux to have remuneration for each mayor on UCPR council and the warden to be based on census figures.

According to the 2016 census, the population of the counties was 89,333, and each regular council member receives $22,124.40 annually, which works out to 25 cents per resident.  The warden receives $43,779.46 per year, which is the equivalent of 49 cents per resident. As part of the 2020 budget, mayors on UCPR council will receive 35 cents per resident, or $31,057.70 per year.  The warden will receive 59 cents per resident or $52,712.76 per year. This represents a 40 per cent salary increase for the mayors who sit on counties council and a 20 per cent salary increase for the warden. For each of the eight mayors and warden sitting on counties council, this equals a salary increase of $8,933 per year, or a total of $80,397 per year for the entire counties council salaries.

(In addition, counties council members also receive payment for convention costs, delegations and other expenses; in 2018, the total for all the mayors, including the warden, was 61,963.56. Including the 2018 mileage costs of 9,027.65, the total cost of counties council — salaries, conventions, mileage etc. — was 267,962.41 in 2018.)

The move to a population-based remuneration amount was proposed by La Nation Mayor François St-Amour and seconded by Casselman Mayor Daniel Lafleur.

The UCPR will also increase its support for subsidized residents of private care facilities from $55.00 per day to $55.50.  No increase was made in the 2019 budget and representatives of private residential care facilities had earlier requested an 83 cent increase.

The 2020 United Counties of Prescott and Russell budget will be reviewed again by council at its next meeting on November 27.  It will begin at 9 a.m. in the council chambers at the UCPR administration building at 59 Court Street in L’Orignal.