The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay passed its largest budget to date on Jan. 29, coming in at over $23 million.
One of the highlights of this year’s budget is the move from the town wells to Spring Gulch, ideally solving an issue that has plagued valley residents for some time. The move will cost $25 per resident, offsetting the projected cost of $200,000 to the town.
Wally Andersen, mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said the $25 figure could change as they are still in negotiations with the Department of National Defense.
“We’re having future talks with 5 Wing and we believe we can bring that down,” he said. “They’re charging us so much a cubic metre for water. We’re paying for water. We have our wells but they didn’t turn out to be the best, especially Number 1, which is our biggest well. But now because of the large amount of water we will get from Spring Gulch that will enable us to shut down well Number 1.”
He said the other well are better quality and between those and Spring Gulch it should bring a big improvement in water for residents in the valley. The date provided by council for the switchover is March 31 but Andersen said that’s a worst case scenario date and it could be as early as mid-February.
No change to mil rate or taxes
The mil rate will stay the same for this year and no increase in taxes is forecast. Andersen said they had to make some cuts along the way in spending and are going to continue to monitor each department as we go forward.
“I think we all know there’s going to be a downturn in the land and housing values and when that happens the amount of money we take in is going to drop,” he said.
He said they have to find ways to offset that, because they can’t keep raising taxes to meet a budget. Starting in April council is going to sit down and scrutinize every department and what they’re spending, where they can save and what they can do.
“After all we owe it to the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay who are taxpayers to be responsible to them in every way possible.”
Right now the town brings in $500,000 in tipping fees from the Muskrat Falls project and Andersen said that’s going to be money they’re going to have to find to maintain what they’re doing now. He said they’re going to move forward with caution and find ways they can save money and cut back on expenditures.
New tax category
Another item on this year’s budget was a new tax category set at 55 mils for data centres, which can use large amounts of power.
“It seems more and more are looking to move to Labrador for cheap power and we believe for such big organizations that the mill rate we’re proposing to charge is reasonable,” he told the Labradorian. “They’re getting probably some of the cheapest power in the world so we’re comfortable with what we’ve outlined to charge these companies.”
He said they’re been told some of the data centres can use up almost 20 MW of power and there’s also concern from the community that they may be using too much.
“If they keep on coming will there be enough power for local businesses who want to open? So we’re being aware of that as well.”
For the first time an amount has been set aside specifically for the upcoming Wellness Centre, $6 million to be exact. The project is a cost chare between the town, the province and the federal government and the town is fundraising to try to get the rest of their share of the $22 million project.
“We’re looking forward to a sod turning process in June. It’s been a long process but we want to make sure that we do thing right and at the end of the day when all is said and done that we have a Wellness Centre that the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay can afford.”