GUYSBOROUGH – The Municipality of the District of Guysborough (MODG) council passed the 2022-2023 budget at its regular monthly council meeting on March 16.
“The good news is that there is no tax increase,” MODG Warden Vernon Pitts said in a written statement provided to media.
Pitts said he was particularly proud that the municipality is now “fully through the fallout of the loss of approximately $3 million in tax revenue from the offshore gas industry.”
The tax rate set is again at $0.77 per $100 of assessment for residential/resource property and $2.74 per $100 of assessment for commercial property. The tax rate for properties containing seasonal tourist businesses is reduced to $2.06 per $100 of assessment.
To defray the cost of additional services in District 8, the former Town of Canso, a tax rate of $1.5126 per $100 of assessment for residential/resource property and $1.3470 per $100 of assessment for commercial property will be levied. This rate is unchanged from the previous year.
Councillor Fin Armsworthy, who represents District 8 (Canso, Tickle) was the only councillor to vote against the tax rate.
District 8 concerns
Since the amalgamation of the former Town of Canso with the MODG, Canso residents have raised concerns about their higher tax rates in comparison to the rest of the municipality.
MODG CAO Barry Carroll sent the following comments via email to The Journal regarding this concern: “There are very few models; and the amount of municipal infrastructure in a small geographic footprint compared to the infrastructure contained in larger rural municipality is much more significant. The costs to maintain infrastructure in an urban serviced area compared to a similar population number in a rural serviced area is much higher.
“The tax system was designed so that the amount that people actually pay is similar in Canso to what people actually pay in the rest of the municipality, based on averages. Our numbers actually show that since amalgamation, homeowners in Canso have paid less taxes in the current system, than they would have paid in the former Town, based on the tax rates there in 2012,” he wrote.
Last year, citizens in District 8 directed questions to The Journal about the cost of services in the former town.
Although employee hours and services are not broken out in the MODG budget to reflect the cost per district, MODG staff created a cost list for the former Town of Canso reflecting expenditures in the 2020-2021 fiscal year and the tax revenue generated in the district (see box to the right). Carroll said these figures would have only marginally changed in the latest budget.
Positive balance sheet
Further reflecting on the budget, Pitts wrote, “Our budget today is more than $20 million (projected revenues and expenditures amount to $20,587,191). As we have done for more than a decade, we are using approximately $269,000 from the accumulated surplus to balance the budget. You will note that, although this is a standard practice, in no year have we actually used that money. We budget on the safe side and so far, that has worked well for us.
“Overall, the municipality is in a sound fiscal position. We are carrying about $26 million in reserves and we believe strongly that the financial picture is secure as we move forth into the future,” stated Pitts.
The warden went on to highlight some key investments that will start this fiscal year, pending approval of applications for infrastructure funding from the federal and provincial governments, including: an application for $1.3 million to install solar panels on most MODG buildings; an application for $3.8 million to complete sidewalks in the Shiretown of Guysborough (linking the hospital, school, shopping centre and an entrance to Sunnyville); an application for $350,000 to upgrade the sewer system in Canso; direct investment of $35,000 to upgrade sewer system in Little Dover; completion of Salsman Park Marina with additional investment of $100,000 (total estimated investment $1 million); direct investment of $35,000 and application for funding for more electric vehicle chargers.
Seventy per cent of lots in the Cutlers Brook subdivision Phase I have been sold and the municipality will move forward with Phase II, which will allow multi-residential developments: duplexes, triplexes and single-family dwellings.
“This phase,” wrote Pitts, “could accommodate from 12 single family dwellings up to 24 units in a multi-residential setup.”
A new economic development reserve of $350,000 will be set aside from the current fiscal year, with $200,000 for an economic development initiative that will be announced at a later date.
MODG is waiting on funding applications for the community enhancement project in Canso, and a second application to ACOA which, if approved, will also “help with the creation of a new interpretation site for the Commercial Cable Site in Hazel Hill. If these projects move ahead, the total budget will be about $931,000,” wrote Pitts.
The municipality will grant approximately $63,000 in tax exemptions this year to community groups, as well as make contributions to various groups for their projects (see list to the right).
To conclude his comments, Pitts thanked council and staff for the work that went into preparing the budget.
The 2022-2023 budget will be available online on the MODG webpage under tabs ‘government -reports-budget’ after the minutes of the March 16 meeting are approved at the regular council meeting in April.