Steady as she goes in Carbonear

By Mark Squibb
December 8, 2023 Edition

Carbonear council adopted a balanced budget of $8.56 million that will see no mil rate increases during a special budget meeting held last Thursday night.

Finance committee chairperson Chris O’Grady, who presented the budget, warned that due to increased property assessments, residents may see an increase on their property tax invoices despite the Town not increasing taxes.

“As all property owners know, property assessment values are calculated annually by the municipal assessment agency and for 2024 the overall assessments have increased by around five-and-a-quarter per cent,” said the councillor. “Based on this, residents may see a small increase in their property tax invoice.”

The Town has budgeted $2.9 million for transportation services, which includes road work and water and sewer maintenance.

“The primary expectation of the residents of our town are efficient water and sewer services and well-maintained roads,” said O’Grady. “Due to delays in some projects and purchases, some expenditures budgeted for 2023 did not occur, thus resulting in a surplus of funds. With the surplus being carried forward to 2024, work planned in 2023 but not completed will be completed in 2024.”

The transportation budget includes $450,000 for asphalt and $60,000 for curbs and sidewalks, and a carry over of $550,000 for asphalt from last year’s budget.

Council has also submitted $5.6 million worth of multi-year capital works applications to the provincial government for paving and water and sewer work throughout the community, including Cross Roads, LeMarchant Road Extension Phase 1, Beach Road Sewer Sizing, Water Street Phase 3, Adelaide Street Phase 2, Grassy Lane, as well as upgrades to the screenhouse and chlorine building.

Council has also budgeted $454,000 to replace a number of Town vehicles, including a pick-up truck, sand truck, asphalt roller, and to purchase new excavator attachments.

The Town has budgeted 1.3 million for recreation, including $113,000 that has been earmarked for the development of a fully accessible playground. Council has also earmarked $30,000 to replace the remaining ball field lights with LED lights. Council will also hire additional summer labourers at a cost of $130,600.

The Town has budgeted $950,360 for environmental health, much of which goes towards sewage and garbage collection. The Town has also targetted $150,000 to study wastewater systems with the goal of reducing waste. Some $70,000 will be spent on a “water systems vulnerability study.”

There is $305,872 for planning and development, including monies for promotional materials, festivals, advertising brochures, and website redevelopment. Some $121,000 has been allocated for fire protection and $48,000 for the purchase of a new cascade system breathing apparatus as well as $6,000 to upgrade the firefighting paging system.

The Town has budgeted $1.2 million for general government, which represents the cost of running the Town Hall. A large chunk of that consists of employee salaries ($403,186), employee benefits ($65,759) and the payroll burden ($37,682) which includes payments to the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance.

Council anticipates collecting $5.8 million in tax revenue, including $2.4 million in residential taxes at a rate of 6.75 mils and $680,425 in commercial taxes at a rate of 9 mils, plus taxes on vacant land, water and sewer, and utilities.

The Town’s debt service ratio remains at 14 percent, well below the 30 precent threshold set by the Department of Municipal Affairs.

“Carbonear continues to be an economically vibrant community,” said O’Grady. “To continue to develop and improve our town is a challenge and requires prudent fiscal management. This council is committed to maintaining a level of taxation which is reasonable and provides our residents with an enhanced level of programs and service delivery.”

Last year, council introduced an interest adjustment policy which allowed residents with a taxable income below $50,000 to set up a payment plan that would help them avoid incurring interest on overdue tax bills. For 2024, the town has increased the eligibility threshold to $60,000.

Mayor Frank Butt allowed that while everyone may not have gotten what they wanted from the budget, there is still opportunity for government funding for additional projects in the coming year.

Council approved the budget unanimously.

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