Bridgewater's residential and commercial tax rates are unchanged in 2020-21 but sewer rates continue a 15 per cent upward trend as the Main Street of the South Shore works toward full cost-recovery of wastewater expenses.
The base residential sewer rate goes to $404.05 from $351.35 in 2019-20, while commercial ratepayers in town are going to shell out $858.20, up from the $746.25 the previous year. This marks the ninth consecutive year of the sewer rate spikes. Much of the revenue is going to a reserve earmarked for future wastewater spending.
In comments posted on social media, Mayor David Mitchell said the those increases need to happen. It ensures the town "can eliminate overflows into the river and eventually replace sections of a system that still functions with 100-year-old piping," he noted.
Town council recently authorized $21.5 million operating and $5.8 million capital budgets for 2020-21.
The residential tax remains at $1.65 per $100 of assessment, while the commercial levy stays $3.97 per $100 of assessment.
Civic politicians were happy with the status quo on tax rates, but the deputy mayor expressed nervousness about the amount of debt the town was taking on. "It's the price of progress," Andrew Tanner commented at the recent council meeting. "I'm glad to see Bridgewater continue to grow."
Thirty-six per cent of the capital budget is being borrowed. It's also expected the annual debt servicing costs will be more than four-times higher about 10 years from now.
Some of the big-ticket capital projects include $1 million toward the business park reconfiguration and new Highway 103 interchange, and $926,454 going to the Energize Bridgewater effort ( http://www.energizebridgewater.ca on the internet). Another $600,000 is being spent on repaving streets, and $300,000 is being used to replace bulbs, poles, and fixtures of town-owned lights along King Street. There are also 10 individual projects aimed at LaHave Street's wastewater treatment plant.
"We know the final product of the budget may look a little different as we start to realize the effects of the coronavirus on our tax base and people's ability to pay," Mitchell told the council meeting. "I appreciate everyone's flexibility on this."
Bridgewater's operating budget is five per cent higher than last year.
Councillors said the financial document wasn't an easy one to navigate, especially with the global pandemic on the go.
"This budget had many challenges," said Councillor Wayne Thorburne, indicating it left him with "more questions than answers." However, he encouraged people to help the economy by supporting local businesses.
Meanwhile, five-term Councillor Bill McInnis has let it be known he isn't seeking re-election in 2020. He said the town has evolved since his time on council, dating back to 2000, and has a lot of which to be proud.
Civic politicians thanked Dawn Keizer, the town's retiring finance director, for her work on the books over the past 12 years.