While commending Lambton County for its largely fiscally responsible draft budget document, the Sarnia Lambton Chamber of Commerce says a long-term problem, a looming infrastructure deficit, flat demographic growth, and the uncertainty of future government grants, has not been fully addressed.
In a letter signed by 2017-18 Chamber chair Michael John Kooy and CEO Shirley de Silva this week, the Chamber expressed its concerns as part of a consultation process.
“Your visible commitment to keeping taxes manageable is appreciated,” said the letter ( Chamber County Budget Response 2018 )
The approach, however, is concerning for the future, with the Chamber offering a cautionary note.
“It does not reduce the County’s exposure to still deeper financial and operational exposures from causes that are already visible on the horizon,” said the Chamber’s letter.
Those include further government funding cuts and service downloads, interest rate fluctuations, inflationary cost increases and capital asset replacement requirements.
“The Chamber believes that these risks warrant an approach that moves beyond the point of line-by-line budget reviews to a focus on non-levy-based revenue generation,” said the letter to the County. “Renewed investment in the Sarnia Lambton Economic Partnership, strategic exploration of new economic development opportunities and responsible debt for key infrastructure projects are worthwhile investments that can result in new sources of revenue.”
The letter closes by encouraging County Council to continue working with the Chamber.
“The Chamber sees great potential in strengthening our collaborative approach. By applying our collective, local resources to a common purpose, we believe that Lambton County will continue to be a great—and economical—place in which to live, work and run a business.”