2017-05-17

Lunenburg taxes increase in new budget

by Evan Bower

Lunenburg residents will bear the greater burden this year in a tax hike designed to reduce the gap between residential and commercial tax rates in the town.

Residential tax rates saw a 1.4 per cent increase to $1.333 per $100 of assessment, and commercial rates a 0.3 per cent increase to $3.286, in the finalized 2017–18 budget passed by town council on May 9.

"Our staff has always demonstrated frugality - they're very good at trying to cut the fat if there were to be any," said Mayor Rachel Bailey. "I think we're moving ahead with some very important infrastructure projects, so that's of great benefit to the community, so I'm very pleased we're able to move ahead with that."

The rate was selected from a list of six tax rate options, which ranged from increases as low as 0.2 per cent and as high as 2.4 per cent.

Deputy Mayor Peter Mosher argued for the latter, saying a tax increase now would mean more money in reserves and better security for the town going forward.

"We're just paying a bit more up front for our borrowing," he said. "So instead of a huge burden on the taxpayer one fiscal period, we're kind of spreading it out, which means a little this year and a little next year, as opposed to going very little this year and then a lot."

Bailey spoke out against that option, saying, "I'm not in support of that big of an increase in our rate ... I think that that is a significant increase and it will be felt."

The approved general operations budget comes in a just over $6.4 million, and the town capital projects budget at just over $6.7 million.

The capital budget includes $500,000 for the relocation of the library to the Lunenburg Academy, $89,000 for roof upgrades on the old fire hall and over $100,000 for new sidewalk and curb work on Knickle and Tannery roads.

Some of the largest items - $2 million to the Academy for external repairs and a combined $3.5 million for three sewer upgrades projects - will have assistance from federal and provincial funds covering over half the cost.

"There's always a wish list, and it's like every homeowner I think; there's renovations and projects and things you'd love to be able to undertake but the budget just won't allow," said Bailey. "We do have a limit on what we can expend and what we can borrow, so we're always mindful of that, and it is a long-term game."

One notable exclusion from the budget is funds to install a bio-filter to the town's waste water treatment plant, designed to reduce the smell pestering those who live in the area.

Approximately $90,000 of additional money needed to clear contaminated soil for the Broad Street boat launch project was also not included in the budget while the town considers its options.

According to meeting minutes, the cost could be funded by "Deed Transfer Tax reserve monies and the proposed floating dock deferred to 2018/19."

"I feel very confident that staff has been diligent in looking at what we do expend for operating, and there is not a lot of excess, there never has been," said Bailey. "Although it may look like status quo, I think there's been a lot of work put in by staff to where they feel there aren't a lot of other places they can cut."

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