Budget sees tax rates unchanged
By Lois Ann Dort
GUYSBOROUGH – The Municipality of the District of Guysborough passed its 2014-2015 budget on Wednesday, April 2. The new budget holds over the residential tax rate from last year of $0.61 per $100 of assessment and the commercial tax rate will remain at $2.58 per $100 of assessment. However Canso residents will be charged an additional local services rate of $1.51 residential and $1.34 commercial, an addition that caused the councillor for District 8, which includes the former town of Canso, to vote against the budget. The Journal spoke to MODG Warden Vernon Pitts and councillor Armsworthy last week about the budget.
“If you look at our documents, Canso's tax rate is exactly the same as the rest of the municipality, exactly the same. We are talking base tax rate here... What it comes down to is they have certain services down there, as other communities have, and it is only fair that these communities pay for the services that they receive. After all it is them that requested the services and they knew the terms before they requested the services, user pay. It is not right to have someone in Country Harbour pay for sewer or water in Canso nor in Guysborough.” The extra taxes, according to Pitts, cover the water utility, electric utility, and sewer services. The rates vary across the municipality based on the cost of running the utilities and maintaining the infrastructure in the coming year.
The main capital project in the budget this year is Sable Wind. Pitts said it accounts for a majority of the capital budget. “It will certainly help the community out in regards to workers; where they stay, where they eat. It will certainly go a long way in upgrading some of their streets. There will have to be some remediation work done upon completion of the project because needless to say there are going to be some heavy loads going in there and we anticipate it will be tearing the roads up some and we will certainly do everything in our power, in conjunction with Transportation, to ensure that it is brought up to an acceptable standard.
“In regards to Canso, we are looking at investments of approximately $2 million. This is going to address everything from sewer, water, sidewalks, library, and the museum...The budget reflects that we are doing a major amount of work in the Canso area; District 8. People don't fully realize what is being done there. In the transitional progress the municipality has committed to stabilizing the tax rates down there. I think we have done that quite well. Our tax rates are now on par. They pay for the services received the same as anyone else,” said Pitts.
Armsworthy told The Journal on Friday that, in his opinion, the additional rate for Canso was above the cost of water and sewer rates. “We have been looking for a decrease in taxes because of the studies that have been done in the past...prior to amalgamation, that we would have a lower tax rate.”
There were some good things in the budget said Armsworthy but he voted against it in total because he felt there was room for movement to decrease the tax rate in District 8. Speaking to the amalgamation process he added, “We probably did get the best deal from the provincial side but are we getting the best deal when we look at our own back yard?”
The projected operating budget for the municipality is $14,831,452 and the capital budget is $31,367,800 for a total 2014/2015 budget of $46,199,252.