Sackville’s treasurer has presented an $11.3 million budget for next year that balances the books and maintains public services without tax increases.
And, for the first time ever, there is no requirement for borrowing to pay for $1.5 million in general capital projects although the town would still need to borrow $462,000 for improvements to its water and sewage systems.
“We will be able to do all general capital [projects] without any borrowing and that includes the fire department,” Michael Beal said as he presented the first draft of his 2020 budget to Sackville Town Council on Monday night.
Beal cautioned that the budget could change as he receives more financial information from the province, but at the same time, he seemed confident that the town is on the right track.
Growth in tax base
The treasurer estimates that the town’s property tax base has grown by just over 3% thanks, in part, to the new Terra Beata frozen food storage plant in the industrial park. It alone boosted the commercial tax base by $5 million.
Beal noted that nearly 90% of the town’s revenues come from property taxes so the increase in the tax base is significant.
One of the biggest general capital projects that town staff are recommending involves installing a $575,000 emergency electrical generator at the Civic Centre where town residents can take shelter when their power goes out during winter storms.
Last year’s budget allocated $286,000 for the generator with the remaining $289,000 coming from this year’s capital budget.
Beal says the generator should be installed this summer and be ready for the winter of 2021.
Town staff are also recommending the purchase of an $80,000 portable generator that would be used to provide back-up power to the public works building, especially during emergencies.
Town Engineer Dwayne Acton added that the portable generator could also be used during power failures at the town’s lift stations to prevent sewage from backing up into people’s homes.
Acton also presented staff recommendations for $293,000 in road work on Milner Lane and at the end of Wright Street as well as installation of sidewalks, curbs and storm sewers on Cattail Ridge up to Robson Avenue.
Other capital project recommendations include $35,000 to install flashing lights at crosswalks, $40,000 in sidewalk renewals, $40,000 for two new bridges in the Waterfowl Park and $80,000 for a Beach Hill dog park.
The treasurer noted that staff recommend deferring some capital projects until next year including paving the gravel parking lots at the Civic Centre ($56,000) and Lilas Fawcett Park ($59,000).
Beal said staff recommend that instead of spending $15,000 on upgrading the skate park this year, the town appoint a users’ committee to come up with suggestions for new equipment and other improvements that could be included in the 2021 budget.
To read the complete list of capital project recommendations, click here.
Beal invited councillors to study the draft budget between now and their next budget meeting on December 3rd.
He said he hoped that once he has more financial information from the province, he’ll be able to put together an updated, second draft.
Councillor Joyce O’Neil weighed in with her own recommendation just before Monday’s meeting adjourned.
“I just can’t see $80,000 for a dog park when there’s so many other things that that money could be spent for,” she said, noting that while most of that money would be used for fencing, there would be a need for additional spending on such things as water, lighting and parking.
“Different people in the public have talked to me on it,” O’Neil said. “On their behalf, I agree with them, $80,000 plus just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Beal replied that ultimately council will have to decide whether to approve the staff recommendations for capital projects including the dog park.
“That does not have to be completely decided during budget allocations because if budget is allocated and not spent, it can be put in the reserve fund for future planning,” he said.
To view the first draft of the 2020 budget documents, click here.