2017-04-19

No tax increase in the Region of Queens

by Michael Lee

  • <p>MICHAEL LEE PHOTO</p><p>Mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality David Dagley speaking to council on April 11. The region has approved an operating budget for 2017/18 that will see no new tax increases in the fiscal season.</p>

The Region of Queens Municipality won't increase taxes for the upcoming fiscal year.

Residential, resource and commercial property tax rates established in the previous budget will remain the same for all districts moving into 2017/18.

Council approved the rates unanimously on April 11 as part of its $19,244,339 operating budget released the same day.

In addition to holding off on tax increases for the year, a modest surplus of $2,927 was achieved.

"Today is a good day," said Mayor David Dagley.

The decision follows a recommendation made in January to aim for a zero tax rate increase in the next municipal budget.

Dagley said staff worked hard to achieve that and did a "wonderful job" reviewing all departments to look for efficiencies and costs that could be reallocated or improved on.

Whether the freeze continues is something that will be dealt with next year.

The 2015/16 Financial Condition Index for Nova Scotia municipalities saw a small improvement in uncollected taxes for the Region of Queens - 14.1 per cent compared to 15.2 the year before - but it remains above the threshold of under 10 per cent.

"Going forward, we as a priority have focused on growing the population, growing the economy, increased housing, increased business, which will then create additional assessment and tax base, which in that situation will provide more taxes next year," said Dagley.

For District 13, the Town of Liverpool, both residential and resource rates will stay at $1.90 per $100 assessment, while the remaining districts will remain at $1.02 per $100 assessment.

In other words, a residential property in Liverpool assessed at $100,000 will pay $1,900 in taxes, while a property assessed at the same value in every other district will pay $1,020.

Commercial rates will continue at $3.00 per $100 assessment in Liverpool and $2.12 per $100 assessment everywhere else.

This means a commercial property in town assessed at $100,000 will pay $3,000 in taxes and $2,120 in the other districts.

Districts 5 and 6, however, pay a slightly higher area rate compared to the other districts outside of Liverpool - 6 cents as opposed to 3 cents - and will contribute a bit more.

Properties not connected to the Liverpool Water Utility will pay 14 cents less in taxes per $100 assessment, while those in Districts 1, 3, 5 and 6 that are connected to the utility will pay 11 cents more per $100 assessment.

Dagley acknowledged that it will be difficult to take on any new initiatives without additional revenue, but told council it was the best they could do with the dollars raised. "The result today is the end of what we have accomplished."

In light of concerns over the past year about the climbing deficit at Queens Place Emera Centre, the latest budget shows revenue increasing by nearly $60,000 at the facility in large part due to events planned for the coming months, including Tom Cochrane in June and the Barenaked Ladies in October.

Salaries and benefits at Queens Place, meanwhile, fell by more than $100,000 after a shift in management this month. However, those gains were wiped out by a $100,000 increase to the special events budget.

Total expenditures only decreased by about $3,000, although that represents a two-year decline.

Dagley said staff are currently looking at another major event for this year.

In addition to the operating budget, council also approved a $712,656 Water Utility budget, with a surplus of $2,599, and a capital budget of $2,562,900.

The projects listed in the capital budget include sewer and water upgrades to Main and School streets, construction of the skate park near Queens Place and two trucks and a loader for the works department.

These will be paid for using provincial and federal funding from the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund and various municipal reserves.

RCMP services increased by nearly $80,000 to $2,254,804. Maintenance on the Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre nearly doubled to $125,000 in order to replace the roof, but the region will receive $55,263 from the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program for that work.

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