Sackville councillors raise property taxes to close budget gap

Councillor Andrew Black

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

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.

Capital spending

Old Sackville Quarry near the Mt. A. campus

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.

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8 Responses to Sackville councillors raise property taxes to close budget gap

  1. Louis says:

    It seems to me that the problem is that a lot of money is being spent on the wrong things, and that taxes are being raised in order to be able to continue to afford the *necessary* things.

    … and I’m not even just talking about lawyers’ bills.

    It’s very much the same as individual budgeting. I’d *want* to drive a Lamborghini. I *need* to drive a car. I have enough money for my *needs*, so I drive a Ford. I don’t borrow money to buy a Lamborghini. Because in the end, they both get me from A to B just the same, and that’s what matters. The same attitude should apply to public funds. Only some Councillors seem to understand this, unfortunately. The majority seem to confuse *needs* and *wants*. That confusion leads to insolvency and debts in individuals…

  2. marc says:

    Bottom line? It’s a very modest increase that will enable the town to deal with a shortfall and still continue improving the quality-of-life services that make Sackville the very special place it is!

    And I’m thrilled to hear that there will be a dog park. Edmonton, AB has more than 40, and a good dog park is one of the things I’ve missed most in my move from there in 2012.

    • Azi says:

      Do we really need a dog park? In Sackville?? Where houses are not sold in more than a year …where price of houses are decreased .. where resturants, shops and many businesses are struggling to attract enough people to stay in business …

      • marc says:

        Why not? I think most people who who have ever visited a dog park will tell you that they are places that help develop community, just as do regular parks, waterfowl parks, libraries, war memorials, and so forth. There is something very special and precious about Sackville and it needs to be nurtured, not neglected.
        I also think we need to keep a sense of proportion about all of this. The article notes:
        “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.”
        For a house valued at, say, $250,000, we’re talking about an *increase* of $25 per year. That’s about the cost of a meal at Mickey D’s for 2 (or perhaps 3) people. Or put another way, very likely it is *far less* than what many folks spend on double-doubles at Timmie’s in just a couple of months (maybe a bit longer, if no donuts!).
        You cannot maintain an asset by ignoring it. Should we not have invested in the Bridge Street or Lorne Streets? The repairs a couple of years ago to the Waterfowl Park?
        Yes, people’s budgets are pinched, but these are modest sums and by investing them locally, we benefit ourselves and our town.

  3. Shawn Mesheau says:

    It is disappointing that the municipality did not choose to reduce capital out of revenue in their operating budget to accommodate the short fall.
    No disrespect to park users however the cost of maintaining parks can be pricey.
    We found that out a few years back when hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent to renew waterfowl park infrastructure that had been neglected for years.
    Even with those upgrades when I questioned staff on a maintenance strategy to ensure longevity of the improvements the response was vague and more then likely in another 20 years tax payers will be stuck with major upgrades again.
    Although I support councilor Black and Phinney in voting no to the budget presented I am surprised that councillor Black then voted in favor of the capital budget when his suggestion was to reduce the capital budget to make up for the budget shortfall.

  4. Percy Best says:

    Hopefully the monetary layout for the $1,200,000 park at the quarry will not fall totally into the laps of the Town taxpayer. There is only $75 million in the federal grant fund that they are looking at. Yes the town has applied for a million dollar grant but if one divides the $75 million up among the 37 million citizens of Canada then that works out to two dollars for each citizen. Sad that not a penny was spent this past year improving the sidewalk system in town but yet $200,000 can be allotted this coming year for the start of a creation of a park that will probably see very little use given its location. “Needs and Wants?”

  5. Rima Azar says:

    Interesting to read this article and the comments of everyone.

    This being said, thank you Councillor Bruce Phinney (for your social wisdom) and Councillor Andrew Black (for thinking about businesses— our town’s existing and forthcoming assets).

    Like Marc (+ many other citizens), I adore dogs! However, I agree with Azi that we could have lived at least another year without a dog park. For me, this would have been a reasonable austerity measure (for this, I would check the box of *wants* AND not *needs* in Louis’ comment).

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