Sackville Treasurer Michael Beal told council on Monday night that while a tax increase might be needed to finance the Phase III completion of the Lorne Street flood control project, it would only be required as part of what he called “a worst-case scenario.”
Beal was speaking shortly before a majority of councillors voted to seek more money from the federal and provincial governments for Phase III. The town estimates it would cost $4.6 million with 40% of that money ($1.84 million) coming from the federal government.
The treasurer said that under his worst-case scenario, Sackville’s share would be 33% or $1.52 million, but if the province agreed to pay 33%, the town would need to contribute only $1.24 million. Beal’s worst-case scenario also includes borrowing money at 5% interest even though the town’s last financing cost less than 2.5%.
“I don’t want to say at this point in time that we could do this with a potential of no tax increase,” he said. “What my projections show is that in a worst-case scenario, it’s 33% municipal funding, 5% borrowing and our tax base stays relatively neutral, we could have to look at a one to one-and-a-half cent tax rate increase.”
(Last year, when the town raised taxes by one cent to $1.56 per $100 of assessment, it meant that a homeowner whose property was assessed at $100,000 paid $10 more per year in taxes.)
Beal said, however, that many factors are at play that could eliminate the need for a tax increase — factors that include the town’s share of the costs falling to 27%, borrowing costs under 5%, continued growth in the town’s tax base, lower than estimated Phase III construction costs and the use of money from the capital reserve fund that is left over from Phase II.
“If all goes well and [these] factors come into play, then again, we would not have to increase any tax rate,” Beal said.
Holding ponds, but no new aboiteau
The Phase III project would include a 20,000 cubic metre (cm) storm water retention pond in the old Pickard Quarry as well as a 40,000 cm pond behind the community gardens on Charles Street along with ditches and piping to carry storm water through the industrial park to a provincially owned aboiteau on the Tantramar River near the town’s main sewage lagoons.
Town Engineer Dwayne Acton told council that the addition of the two new retention ponds would add to the 40,000 cm pond now under construction as part of Phase II giving the town the 100,000 cm capacity it needs to handle a one-in-one-hundred year storm.
Phase III does not include plans for a bigger aboiteau to discharge water into the river because all aboiteaux in the area are owned by the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI).
“We feel that DTI need to step up to the plate and upgrade their infrastructure to be able to handle the flow and the water that we [would] be sending towards a potentially new aboiteau,” Acton said.
He added that even if DTI didn’t come through with a new aboiteau, the retention pond in the quarry, the two larger ones east of Lorne Street and a series of deep ditches would be able to handle the water from major storms.
Although a majority of councillors voted in favour of seeking the federal and provincial money under the Investing in Canada infrastructure program, Sackville will be competing with other New Brunswick municipalities for the $5 million that the province has allocated as its share of the program.
For a timeline on how the Lorne Street flood control project has evolved since 2016, click here.