Property taxes will be going up in Sackville this year after a majority of town councillors voted Monday to approve a one cent hike in residential rates and a one-and-a-half cent increase for businesses.
The new rate of $1.56 per $100 of assessed value will mean that taxes will go up on a home valued at $100,000 by $10 this year, while a business with a similar assessment will pay $15 more.
Six councillors voted in favour of raising taxes to close a budget shortfall of about $60,000 after the province reduced the town’s tax base by $9.2 million.
Councillors Andrew Black and Bruce Phinney voted against the tax hike.
Phinney said that a lot of people could not afford even a small increase in property taxes while Black said raising municipal taxes on businesses goes against the town’s goal of strengthening existing businesses while attracting new ones.
“Sackville has been dealt a bad hand,” Black said during a council debate that lasted about 12 minutes.
“There is no reason to increase taxes to compensate, but rather cut spending to make ends meet, which is what most Sackvillians would do with their own personal budgets,” he added.
Black argued that council could delay some of this year’s capital spending to make up for the $60,000 in lost revenue.
Councillor Bill Evans, who voted for the tax increase, responded that delaying spending wouldn’t help because a permanent reduction in the town’s tax base will mean continuing budget shortfalls in coming years.
“This is not a one-time problem,” Evans said. “If we don’t raise taxes now, the deficit that we face next year without the additional funding will be even greater and so, I don’t think that is an effective way to deal with the problem that we are faced with,” he added.
Maintain services and town assets
Deputy Mayor Ron Aiken and Councillor Joyce O’Neil, who both voted for the tax increases, said that while no one likes to see taxes go up, the town must continue to maintain its capital assets and its services.
I’ve heard a lot of people say that they’ve come to our town because they enjoy our services and that we’re doing a super job on that,” O’Neil said. “So to turn around and cut those, what are we accomplishing there?
Councillors Megan Mitton and Michael Tower also favoured increasing taxes to maintain services and capital investments. Tower argued that the town has spent its money wisely on such projects as improvements to Bridge and Lorne Streets as well as on the downtown park in memory of Bill Johnstone.
“I’m still unsure about what I am going to do here,” said Councillor Allison Butcher. “I’m struggling with this a lot,” she added. “If this was my personal issue having spent too much or thought I had to, I would cut something back.”
But when the vote came a few minutes later, Butcher sided with the five councillors who favoured raising taxes.
Meantime, town council approved $950,000 in capital spending at Monday’s meeting with only Councillor Phinney opposed.
“Here we are raising taxes,” Phinney said, adding that at the same time, the town is committing itself to $25,000 in spending for a Beech Hill dog park; $25,000 for the establishment of new recreational trails and $200,000 for a project in the old Sackville Quarry that would combine a park with water retention facilities designed to alleviate downtown flooding. (The town has applied for a $1 million federal grant to help pay for the Quarry Project. The grant is administered by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities under its Climate Innovation Program.)
To view the list of 2018 town capital projects, click here.
To read previous coverage of the town’s budget shortfall, click here.