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Budget Process

Every year City Council, the City Manager, and City staff work together to develop a draft annual budget.  Council then reviews the budget and makes decisions to achieve a balance between service and scope levels, infrastructure needs, resource availability, and appropriate tax rates and user fees to serve the residents of the City and lead the development of a safe, vibrant and sustainable city.

The budget serves as an outline for how the monies that come into the City should be spent to maintain and improve the City.  The budget helps in determining which objectives have the highest priority and will produce the greatest positive impact in the community.

Annual Budget

Annual budgets cover current operation, capital projects and reserve funding. 


Month Detail
Budget Calendar
September Proposed Departmental budget requests for the next year are compiled and reviewed.  Staff provide Council with a presentation of high-level budget issues at a Strategic Priorities Council Meeting.
October The City Management Team prepares Draft Operating, Capital, and Reserves Budgets; this is issued to Council, and made available to the public at the end of the month. 
November A Budget overview presentation is reviewed with Council at a public Strategic Priorities Council Meeting.  The public is given the opportunity to provide input regarding the budget.    
December Council deliberates the details of the budgets, and makes changes until they agree upon an acceptable level of taxation, water & sewer rates, and user fees to be collected by the City for the next year.


City expenditures are funded through property taxation, user fees, water & sewer rates, grants, and other revenue.  Approximately 53% of expenditures are collected through property tax.  The remaining city expenditures are funded through federal/provincial grants, user fees, water/sewer rates, and other revenue.  There are 3 components of a tax rate, they include:


This rate is set by the Ministry of Finance and is consistent for the Province.  This rate is generally published in April for the current taxation year. Residents can elect to have this portion of their property taxes directed to various school boards.


This rate is set by County of Lambton Council, and is generally set in March for the current taxation year.  Included in the County of Lambton Council are  4 City of Sarnia Councillors and the Mayor.

Municipal and Transit

This rate is set by City of Sarnia Council, and is set in December of the year prior to the taxation year.  The rate is set by taking the total approved budget less user rates, fees and other forms of revenue and dividing it by the total assessed value of property in the City, taking into account the various rates of taxation for various tax classes (residential, multi-residential, commercial, industrial, etc.).  The Municipal portion is also referred to as the General Levy.


The combination of these 3 components of the property tax rate is multiplied by your property assessment value (determined by Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC)) to determine your total property taxes owing for a year. 

To calculate your total property tax bill, multiply your property assessment by the total residential tax rate.

For example, the property taxes for a home which has been assessed at $200,000 this year may be calculated as follows:

Property’s current value assessment $200,000.00 x Tax rate* of 1.500000%
Property taxes = $3,000.00

 *Sample tax rate.  Note: this example is for illustration only.

The City collects the total property tax amount, and then forwards the Education taxes to the Ministry of Finance, and the County taxes to the County of Lambton.  The Municipal and Transit portion of the property taxes collected are retained by the City of Sarnia to fund the operating, capital, and reserve budgets. 


What is a budget?

A planned, itemized summary of money coming into the municipality and how that money will be spent over a specified period of time.


What is the Current (Operating) budget?

The operating budget pays for all the day to day activities of the corporation.

Examples of operating expenses include: salaries and wages, insurance, supplies, fuel, and utilities.


What is a Capital budget?

The Capital budget pays for all new, big investments or rehabilitation of assets currently under the city’s control.

Examples of capital expenses include: new buses, new roads, and new sewers.


What is Assessment Growth?

Assessment growth results from property taxes that are paid primarily as a result of an expanding City (new homes and businesses).

These new taxes are paid to receive the same services that existing tax payers receive. Given that there are an increased number of homes and businesses requiring core municipal services, civic departments, boards and commissions have to provide an increased volume of core services.


What are Reserves & Reserve Funds?

Reserves and Reserve Funds are established by Council, or statue, to assist with long term financial stability and financial planning. These funds are set aside to help offset future capital needs, long term obligations, and unexpected costs. They are drawn upon to finance specific purpose capital and operating expenditures as designated by Council, to minimize tax rate fluctuations due to unanticipated expenditures and revenue shortfalls. 


What is the percentage change in total property taxes changed over the years? 

Taking into account the combined Education, County and Municipal/Transit taxes, based on all tax classes, the chart below shows the historical change (in dollars) collected through property tax from one year to the next.

Bar Graph indicating year over year change in Collected Property Tax (including Municipal, Transit, County and Education)

What is the percentage change in the Municipal portion of taxes directed to the City historically? 

The chart below shows the historical change from one year to the next for the Municipal portion of property taxes only (General Levy).  This is based on the City’s Council-approved budget.

Bar graph indicating year-over-year change of the City portion of Collected Property Tax

How is the City of Sarnia’s spending broken down between services?

The City’s total expenditures are allocated to services as shown in the chart below:

Total Municipal Expenditures

General Gov’t : Council, Admin(Legal/ HR/Finance/IT/Clerk/Purchasing..), Economic Development, etc.
Protection: Fire, Police, Building, By-Law Enforcement
Transportation:  Harbour, Engineering, Public Works, Transit, Parking Lots, Street Lighting
Environment:  Waste & Recycling, Water, Sewer, Sanitary Sewers
Rec & Culture:  Parks, Recreation, Arenas, Library, Lawrence House, Strangway, Children’s Farm, etc.
Planning & Development:  Drains, Planning, Committees
Debt:  Principal & Interest Payments


This page was reviewed or revised on Thursday, June 6, 2019 1:00 PM

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255 North Christina Street,
Sarnia, ON N7T 7N2
PH#: 519-332-0330
TTY# : 519-332-2664