EMBRUN – Township of Russell politicians officially approved the municipality’s 2022 budget during this week’s Nov. 1 council meeting.

“I think we had very in-depth discussions for those two days,” Mayor Pierre Leroux said, referring to the Oct. 20-21 budget deliberations. “The fact that we’re including more roads, more sidewalks, more pedestrian safety, I think is a very good thing.”

Director of finances and treasurer Richard Godin presented council with the recommendation to approve a second draft of the budget with a 2.5 per cent tax increase. His recommendation also included approval requests for the 2022 User Fees and Charges, the 2022 Community Grants – Special Event Program listing with new organizational chart, and the proposed salary structure.

“I’d like to get a registered vote on that just to show our support for this budget. This is a very important budget. I think we’ve done some very forward-thinking things in this budget with the continuation of the rec complex funding plan and as well with the second stream of infrastructure for roads. I think it’s very important that the public understand that and a solid confirmation from council is important here,” Councillor Jamie Laurin said. In a registered vote, council voted unanimously in favour of the 2022 budget.

Township staff originally recommended a budget resulting in a 2.5 per cent tax increase. Following budget deliberations, this number was reduced to 1.5 per cent. Then, in response to multiple resident requests, council added an additional one per cent to create a second stream funding focused on road improvements not already identified in the latest roads’ study. This brought the tax increase back up to the 2.5 per cent.

“The township’s average household assessment value of $346,000 will see a $44.53 tax increase in 2022. The township will consequently have a total additional taxation levy of $984,213 where the additional growth has generated new revenues of $627,216 while $356,997 will be generated from the taxation increase,” Deputy treasurer Patrick Auger said in his report. “This budget does not include changes for water and wastewater fixed rates. This budget anticipates a two per cent cost of living adjustment to staff and council salary grids.”

The report can be found in the Nov. 1 council agenda package. It includes a summary report, revised infrastructure budget, a list of operational modifications that were made to the first draft budget, information on revised reserves, as well as modifications to the user fees and charges and more. Chief administrative officer Jean Leduc said he believes this is a good budget and noted that staff and council are trying to give residents more for their tax dollars; Leroux agreed.

“Our 2022 budget includes long-term strategic planning. It’s allowing us to address asset management deficits and we’re continuing our financial planning for our future recreation complex,” Leroux said. “For some of us, this will most likely be our last budget session together, so I want to take a moment to thank all the staff and council for their professionalism and openness to compromise during the two budget days because I felt that was very important. Overall, we’re improving our roads, sidewalks, pedestrian safety, as well as increasing cultural, recreational, and environmental investments. So, the 2022 budget is a forward-thinking budget allowing us to be proactive as opposed to being simply reactive. Rest assured, we have laid down a solid foundation for councils and administration to come.”