Paradise council opts for small tax hike

By Kyle Reid   |   for The Shoreline

Some residents in the Town of Paradise will see a hike in their property tax bills next year due to a 0.4 mil rate increase, while the Town will increase spending nearly $1.6 million in 2019.

A significant portion of the increased spending in the $37.3 million budget, presented during Tuesday evening’s regular council meeting, will be allocated towards a $1 million Infrastructure Replacement Reserve dedicated for emergency infrastructure repairs.

Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Laurie, who chairs the Town’s finance committee, presented the budget and called the reserve “sound fiscal management.”

“In creating a reserve fund we are reducing the burden on those who choose to make Paradise their home in the years ahead,” said Laurie.

Approximately half of Paradise residents will feel the residential property tax increase next year, thanks to a 5 per cent decrease in residential property values calculated in this year’s municipal assessments. The Town estimated that some 36 per cent of residents will see an increase of about an additional $10 or less per month. 10 per cent of residents will see an increase of more than $20 per month.

“We feel this is a fair and reasonable approach to ensure we are able to continue with our municipal services and programs,” said Laurie.

Residential water and sewer rates will also see an increase to $600 per unit next year — up $50 from last year. Laurie said that operating costs for the Town’s wastewater treatment facility increased over the past year due to upgrades which were completed to comply with federal regulations.

And while residential taxes are getting a bump, commercial taxes will stay the same at 11.5 mils, meaning no added expenses for businesses in Paradise.

“As our commercial sector grows, so too does the taxation proceeds from that sector,” said Laurie. “This rate level also ensures the Town remains competitive with our neighbouring municipalities, and this is key to continuing with our business attraction and growth efforts.”

Approximately 51 per cent of Town earnings in 2019 are estimated to come from revenues from property taxes, while 20 per cent will come from business property taxes and business taxes and 13 per cent from residential water and sewer fees. The remainder is projected to come from Gas Tax funding, and various fees charged for services.

Council felt comfortable with a tax hike this year, Laurie said, noting that resident input in the town’s budget consultations was warm to the idea — as long as residents saw returns in services.

“(Residents) told us that a minimal increase to taxation would be acceptable if it meant additional investments in the areas of road maintenance, parks and trails, capital upgrades and recreation offerings,” said Laurie. However, the increase in spending on services was rather minimal, Laurie noted. “We have reduced spending wherever possible while also making the necessary investments,” said Laurie.

“It’s about finding the right balance.” Laurie said that the Town has allotted $7.1 million for regional service costs, alongside $12 million for various road and infrastructure improvements — both areas seeing slight increases compared to last year.

New road projects will include the start of planning for a roundabout tapped for the intersection of Kenmount Road and McNamara Drive. $4.1 million will be allotted to recreation improvements next year — up about $200,000 from 2018.

Laurie said that a portion of the the money will be spent on the completion of the Adam’s Pond Trail, improvements to the T’Railway and an upgrade to the lighting system at the Milton Road ball field. A new program to allow children of low-income families to participate in Town recreation programs was also added to the 2019 budget.

The debt servicing ratio is down 1.2 per cent from last year, decreasing debt charges to the Town by about $300,000 from 2018.

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