The 2023 budget for the United Counties of Prescott and Russell (UCPR) returns to council for further review and discussion when it meets on Wednesday, December 7.

A special council meeting regarding the proposed budget was held on November 30, but there was no consensus among the mayors to provide staff with a recommended limit on the levy increase. The levy is the amount in taxes the UCPR collects through its eight municipalities. It is not the same as the taxation rate.

UCPR Treasurer Valérie Parisien presented a preliminary budget to council based on a three percent increase and the director of each department explained their capital project needs for the year ahead.

According to UCPR documents, a one per cent increase in the taxation levy equals $520,000. In 2022, the UCPR levied $52,551,000 in taxes. If that levy were to increase by three per cent for 2023, the amount would increase to $56,103,800.

A levy increase of three per cent for 2023 equals $2 million. In 2022, the total UCPR operations budget was $161,863,400. Using the three per cent levy increase model presented on December 7, the 2023 operating budget would be $177,274,700.

The total capital budget presented in the preliminary document was $61,575,500.

New fund suggested

Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux noted how negativity among communities increased during the worst months of the pandemic. As a way of fostering community projects and spirit, he suggested the current $10,000 each municipality is allocated from the UCPR in each budget be increased and available to each mayor for use on discretionary initiatives in their municipalities.

 “I think we should create some kind of positivity program at the Prescott-Russell level where those funds would come back as discretionary budgets for mayors to work on projects in their own community,” Leroux said.

He then suggested the increasing the amount to $50,000 per municipality.

“Then you can actually make things happen in our communities,” remarked Leroux.

Casselman Mayor Géneviève Lajoie suggested the funds could be used by municipalities to implement initiatives under their Community Safety and well-being plans they have developed in collaboration with the Ontario Provincial Police and social services agencies.

Council directed Parisien to incorporate the new municipal fund into the next draft of the budget. It will be presented to council on December 7. A further draft will go before council on December 14, and final approval is expected to be granted by council on January 11.