The Happy Valley-Goose Bay Town Council recently adopted its budget for 2013.
The Town will be spending a total of $21,464,018.26 this year for its services, a reduction from the $30,081,332.29 it spent in 2012.
The biggest news for municipal taxpayers is the mil rate. The residential property rate is being lowered to 8.0, compared to 8.5 last year. Senior citizens will also be seeing a dip from 2.5 to 2.0. The mil rate for business property remains the same at 10.5 mils.
But this is not all good news. Even though the mil rate for residential property is going down, citizens will still be paying a bit more in property tax. According to Deputy Mayor Stanley Oliver, the last time an assessment was done by Municipal Assessment Agency, the value of property within the municipality increased significantly.
“The assessments this year is up an average of 18 per cent; that’s business and residential,” says Happy Valley-Goose Bay Deputy Mayor Stanley Oliver.
“How it’s suppose to work, ideally, is; if the assessments go up by a certain percentage, you adjust your mil rate accordingly, downward. We realized that the assessments were up…so we adjusted it down a half a mil to lesson the burden. Will it satisfy everybody? Absolutely not, but it lessened the burden a little.”
The water and sewer rate in town has gone up as well. Last year, residents paid $480 per household, this year it’s up to $510.
The Town may be spending $8,617,314.26 less than last year, but they’re also receiving less money from provincial and federal transfers. Last year, government transfers made up $13,543,479.86 of the Town’s total revenue. This year it’s down to $8,929,265.26. A big reason for the dip in government transfers has to do with the final payments of the town’s water treatment plant.
“One of the biggest things that’s going to be done, is in 2013-2014, we’re 10 years into our water treatment plant,” says Oliver. “That plant will be paid off the end of 2013, or the beginning of 2014…so the portion of the loan that we get from the feds and the province for that facility is done.”
Transfers that the town receives from outside funding, projects, and municipal operating grants (MOGS), are also down to $3,643,608.00 this year from $8,638,378.00 in 2012.
The situation with MOGS is a sore spot for the Council. The amount of money municipalities receives from the province for operating grants is down significantly. Oliver is hoping the situation will change in the near future.
“We used to get over $800,000 (annual), one time we used to get over a million dollars, 10 years ago,” says Oliver. “Now were down to $256,000, and the province continues to download on the municipalities.”
“There needs to be a new fiscal arrangement for municipalities. All they got to do is…take one per cent of your (provincial) sales tax and give it to the towns, that’ll solve your town’s deficit.”
On the plus side, the town has received more tax revenue for this year’s budget. In 2013 the Town will be spending $8,263,395.00 of taxpayers money. In 2012, $7,349,624.43 was budgeted; nearly a one million dollar difference. But Stanley Oliver says this doesn’t make the town is much richer. The town is growing, so the extra tax revenue has to go to providing more services.
“Our town is increasing in population,” says Oliver. “That doesn’t directly correlate to more taxes, because we have to provide services; fire hydrants, streets, parks, streetlights, we pay for them.”