For Essex Mayor Ron McDermott, it’s doesn’t get much easier than this.
“Just sit back, relax and watch it unfurl,” he said, after town council on Monday passed the 2018 budget with a two per cent increase to the municipal levy.
It was McDermott’s 14th budget as mayor of Essex, and quite possibly his last – if he chooses against running in next year’s municipal election.
He says all of the credit goes to town staff, which was tasked by council to come in at the two per cent mark. McDermott says they’ve been working on the document for months – and made council’s job easy Monday night.
“I ride around town kissing babies and everything, other people work at Chrysler’s, you know, and this guy works at Hiram Walker’s. We don’t know what’s going on in here,” remarked McDermott after the budget passed. “I've always said, let administration do their job. That's what we pay them to do. And we do have a great one, you heard it tonight."
For the average homeowner with a property valued at $183,000, the municipal levy will cost roughly an extra $27 dollars on their tax bill.
When combined with the school board and library board levies, Essex residents are looking at about $45 more in taxes in 2018.
Much of the budget is dedicated to infrastructure.
Chris Nepszy, the director of infrastructure and development, said about $10 million of the town’s $52 million budget will be spent on roads and sewers, though he’s hopeful some of that amount will be offset with grants from upper levels of government.
North Malden, Eighth Concession, Gore Road and Craig Beach will soon see new asphalt, as well as continued storm water works.
Nepszy’s department is also taking on a new strategy this year, with more emphasis on “shave and pave” projects that will extend the life of existing roads, rather than total rebuilds, which Nepszy says are quite costly.
“I think council’s in a tough spot. There’s a lot of need and there’s only so much money. So I think they’re looking for ways to be creative and provide value to their residents,” Nepszy says. “In doing this, we can still replace some infrastructure need we have but as well get some value and stretch that as far as we can go.”
Newly appointed Chief Administrative Officer Donna Hunter says it all boils down to the basics.
"I think the storm water improvements continuing, those, to make sure we're well prepared for growth and for any more storm events,” she said. “Starting that process in Harrow, that's really good. I think those are really exciting projects."
Mayor McDermott says the benefit of passing a budget early is the town will be first out of the gate with shovel-ready projects in the spring.
"We've got projects out there. If the weather is good, you know, we’re first ones out there. You get these people to start doing our bridges, or whatever needs to be done."
The work isn’t done yet. The town is embarking on a five-year process that will see administration and council get back together as early as December to talk budget forecasts from 2019 through to 2022. It’s something the new CAO is eager to complete.
“We’ll get her done, and that’s what we want,” says Hunter.