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Jan. 18, 2020 | Saturday
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Roads, traffic key concerns, budget survey finds
NOTL council will finalize its 2020 budget at the special council meeting Monday, Dec. 16. (Dariya Baiguzhiyeva/Niagara Now)

Niagara-on-the-Lake council hopes to finalize its 2020 budget with what could be a marathon session on Dec. 16.

Meanwhile, on Monday night, councillors released the results of a survey that shows what some residents would like to see how the town spends taxpayers’ money next year.

Out of 107 respondents, 55 per cent were between the ages of 50 to 69. Fifty-six per cent also lived in Old Town.

When asked what the town should start or spend more money on in 2020, the most common responses were road infrastructure, maintenance and traffic control, tourism strategy and resident services.

“Beautifying Niagara Stone Road in Virgil would enhance NOTL by providing a pleasant entrance instead of the unattractive strip malls,” was one of the comments provided through the survey.

“It is disappointing to find out that the (NOTL) Museum currently receives almost the same amount of money as the beautification of Queen Street does,” was another comment. “Spend less on the beautification.”

Most responses also said the town should stop or spend less on tourism and beautification, as well as legal fees and consultants next year.

“When we have a tight budget, the last thing you want to do is get into a lawsuit. Pick the battle, can’t win them all,” was another comment from the survey.

Residents also chose newspapers as their preferred source of information, followed by the town website and the Join The Conversation webpage.

The purpose of the survey was to help councillors take comments and suggestions into consideration when finalizing the 2020 budget, town staff said in the report.

The 2019 operating budget was $11.5 million and the capital budget was $9.4 million.

Property taxes in NOTL are split among three levels of government: the town of NOTL, the Region of Niagara and the province.

About 23 per cent of every property tax dollar is spent on the town, the rest is divided between the region and the province, the report says.

The majority of the town’s 2019 revenue – 39.6 per cent – came from user fees and services, followed by 37 per cent from property taxes. The rest accounted for reserve funding, federal and provincial grants, bylaw charges and sales, and other sources. The smallest amount of revenue came from bylaw charges and sales – it accounted for 2.2 per cent.

Twenty-one per cent of taxes went toward parks and recreation. Another 21 per cent was spent on roads, 15 per cent on infrastructure, 13 per cent on corporate services and 11 per cent on fire and emergency services. The rest was spent on NOTL Public Library, planning and development, and council and administration – each receiving five per cent. Street lighting had four per cent of the revenue allocated to it.

From the 2019 budget expenses, 35.6 per cent was spent on salaries, benefits, protective clothing and development. The town also spent 25.4 per cent on contracted services, 23.5 per cent on transfers to reserves, and 10.8 per cent on operational services and supplies. The rest was allocated toward community partners, boards and agencies, grants, financial expenses and interest on long-term debt.

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