Harbour Main council careful not to overburden taxpayers, says Mayor

By Patrick Newhook/December 16, 2021

Harbour Main Mayor Mike Doyle said his town is bouncing back from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, something that is evident in the nearly $1 million budget that it has set for next year.

Council approved the $994,007 spending plan last week.

The Town is expecting to take in some $780,000 in taxes and fees and some $185,170 in provincial and federal transfers. Almost all of Harbour Main’s own source revenue comes in the form of residential taxes, which are budgeted at $547,784 for next year. The town is expecting to collect $6,945 in commercial taxes, $52,200 from taxes on vacant land, and $104,670 in water and sewer fees.

Doyle said when COVID-19 hit in March of last year, certain services and future plans took an impact, especially activities not specifically covered by the town’s budget.

“A lot of the fundraising going on for the community park (for instance), we had lost a lot of that fundraising capability, because a lot of that was in person fundraising which had to stop because of COVID,” Doyle said. “You think of some of the bingo stuff that was going on and how that went to the side, and (fundraising) supports for the volunteer fire department, we’ve seen that go to the wayside a bit during COVID. There were those kind of impacts to the overall contributions to a community and so through things like grant funding we were able to come in and close some of those gaps… We’ve seen the federal and provincial governments step up with a lot of COVID funding to help mitigate a lot of the challenges that we’ve seen.”

However, the community is bouncing back, said the mayor, and fundraising for volunteer services and activities has started again.

Doyle acknowledged the challenges a town like Harbour Main faces when it comes to taxation. Smaller communities have limited businesses, which require citizens to bear the load through residential taxes. The challenge is doing this without forcing too much of a burden on people.

“That’s the challenge of any rural municipality,” said Doyle. “Unlike our neighbours, for example, if you look at Holyrood or CBS, they have a lot of commercial capability, a lot of industrial capability. When you get to these real small communities, we just don’t have that in play, so unfortunately the burden is on the resident because we don’t have that commercial capacity… You’re looking at your budget. You have to work within what you have and so we don’t have a lot of commercial or industrial revenue that we can lean on, and we have to be very conscious. In these small rural communities, the weight is carried by the residential taxpayer, so you have to be cognizant of that and be sure not to put any additional burden on them that you don’t have to.”

Doyle noted that in Harbour Main’s case, the mil rate hasn’t changed from last year’s budget.

“We’ve been able to maintain the mil rate,” he said. “We understand that in our present economy, taxpayers themselves have challenging issues, so we wanted to make sure that we can hold the budget line without doing any tax increases to the residential taxpayer.”

Despite the challenges, the mayor is optimistic about the town’s future.

“One of the things we looked at in this budget is just to make sure that we held all the lines we could to see what 2022 will bring and we really just had to make sure that we could hold the line, not do any extra projects and focus on finishing the projects we had started,” said Doyle.

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