Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay owed 1.7 million in taxes in 2012
Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay is owed more than a million dollars in back taxes since 2009.
According to the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s 2012 audit, the municipality is owed more than a million dollars in unpaid taxes.
The audit states that, as of December 31 2012, the total amount of taxes still unpaid in Happy Valley Goose Bay was $1,757,328,compared to $1,453,977 in 2011.
Out of all the tax money owed to the Town, $879,000 is from property tax, $300,359 is business tax, and $577,969 is in water and sewer tax.
In previous interviews with The Labradorian, just days after the new Council was sworn in, all three members of the previous Council admitted that more should have been done to collect the back taxes.
“The outstanding taxes, that’s an onus on us as a municipality to put the notices out there to people who are delinquent in their taxes,” said former Mayor Leo Abbass.
“One of the things the auditor told us was hat we have to be more diligent in getting those taxes.”
Of course, the 1.7 million in overdue taxes didn’t accumulate in one year. According to Happy Valley-Goose Bay Town Clerk Hayward Broomfield, some people have owed taxes from as far back as 2005.
Former Councilor Brenda Way said that enforcing certain bylaws and policies, were challenging during her four years on council. She says that collecting the taxes and ordering property cleanups were things that should have been done more often during the previous term.
“In four years, I don’t feel that we managed to accomplish getting the back-taxes collected. We didn’t get the cleanups in some of the areas of town that have a lot of complaints about neighbours yards, we didn’t get them done,” said Way.
According to Hayward Broomfield, taxes are considered delinquent if they’re one month over due. The Town will then send out monthly notices to those who are in arrears, asking for them to pay up, or make arrangements.
If someone is delinquent for six months, according to Broomfield, the Town will consider cutting off the water supply to that person’s property. But The Town Council must approve such an action before staff can carry it out.
Former Deputy Mayor Stanley Oliver said that shutting off someone’s water is not an easy decision to make, which is why so many taxes were left unpaid.
“I think there was a reluctance by council and senior staff to do the ultimate to collect (taxes),” said Oliver.
“That’s the last resort, to shut off someone’s water, whether it’s a business or a household. But you can’t have taxes in arrears for three or four years because…your taxes are do on an annual basis.”
Broomfield says that the Town staff has been spending a lot more time and effort in 2013 to collect taxes. He said that, recently, they shut of water to two properties, with permission from the previous council, which prompted quick payment arrangements to be made.
Broomfield says that he doesn’t know how much tax is still owed in town, but it’s less than the $1.7 million from 2012.
“We have collected some. People have been paying their arrears throughout the year,” he said.
But there’s still work to be done. Broomfield said that, in 2014, the Town would be seeking legal advice on how best to collect overdue business tax.
There’s certain cases, says Broomfield, where it can be difficult to collect overdue business tax. For example, if there is a business on Base that is overdue, the Town can’t shut off the water, since they have a different water source.
‘Important to be aware’
Deputy Mayor Cora Hamel Pardy — who also serves as Chair of the Finance, Administration and Policy Committee — said council feels it’s important that residents be aware of the town’s financial situation.
“We are concerned about the amount of taxes outstanding from individuals and businesses, and we have instructed management to undertake a thorough review to ensure steps are taken to address this issue,” said Hamel Pardy in a press release on Oct. 23. Everybody has to pay their taxes.”
She said by aggressively addressing this issue, the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay will improve cash flow and lessen the dependence on short-term operating debts, thus resulting in savings on interest payments.
Mayor Jamie Snook said the increase in accounts receivable from the previous year can be attributed largely to increased business activity and housing starts on top of a number of old files.
“Our community is growing and, as a result, more tax revenue is being generated,” he says. “However, there is still a major concern with outstanding debts. As a Council we will explore all options available to us to ensure taxes are collected. Residents want to know that everyone is being treated fairly and equally. Our ultimate goal is to put our community first and foremost, which is why it is important to ensure all residents and businesses are in good standing."
The Finance, Administration and Policy Committee is also researching other revenue generators to lessen the burden on taxpayers while increasing services to the community. As well, steps will be taken to reduce costs associated with Council and staff travel, as well as attendance at various functions within and outside the community.