Sackville town councillors appeared to be in an upbeat mood during their meeting last week as they approved an operating budget of just over $10.9 million, an increase of $153,509.
The 2019 budget contains no property tax increases, no cuts in municipal services and, there will be money to bring back the popular chalk art festival that was held on Bridge Street in 2017.
Councillors voted in favour of the budget after learning that this year’s revenue is expected to be at least $242,000 higher than estimated mainly because the town earned $120,000 from building permits.
At the same time, expenses are expected to be about $60,000 lower than projected mainly because of the $30,000 saved in salaries due to vacant positions and leaves.
“I don’t have a question, but I just was deciding, when during this meeting, I should gush about the job done by staff,” said Councillor Bill Evans.
“We’ve had good planning and good management,” he added, noting that the town also had some really good luck.
“Over $100,000 in building permits is not good management and good planning, it’s good luck,” Evans said, “but what we did with it is that we put it towards moving ourselves to a position where we’re going to have a much bigger capital out of revenue [and] a much smaller debt servicing component to our budget.”
Evans was referring to the town’s plan to finance nearly all of next year’s capital projects, including Phase Two of the Lorne Street flood control project, out of tax revenues rather than borrowing the money and paying interest on it.
The town does plan, however, to borrow $138,00o for new fire equipment.
To view the full list of 2019 capital expenditures totalling $1,505,359, click here.
Meantime, next year’s budget allocates just over $1.1 million to pay principal and interest on long-term debt that was previously incurred.
To view all of the 2019 budget documents, click here.
Sackville losing provincial money
Town councillors were told during last week’s meeting that Sackville’s 2019 tax base has increased by $14.6 million (2.36%) to $634.6 million and that the town will receive $65,757 from the province as its 2019 community core funding grant.
However, Treasurer Michael Beal says that since 1993, the town has lost $954,262 in such provincial grants because of its high tax base and relatively small population.
According to Beal’s figures, the losses have increased dramatically since 2013 when the province abolished its system of unconditional grants and replaced it with an equalization formula designed to help poorer municipalities.
“Why do we have a high tax base, it’s because of the university,” Beal said during an interview. “The province takes into account the university properties in the formula, but they don’t take into account that we have to provide services for these 2,400 students.”
Since the students are not counted as part of Sackville’s population, the town receives no equalization grant.
According to Beal, over the last 26 years, Sackville has been forced to raise property taxes by more than 23 cents per $100 of assessment to make up for the lost provincial grants. The current residential property tax rate is $1.56 per $100 of assessment or $1,560 on a home assessed at $100,000.
To view a table showing the core funding and equalization grants that all New Brunswick municipalities are receiving in 2019, click here.
To view a 2018 chart showing how the province calculates core funding and equalization grants, click here.