Treasurer Michael Beal has allocated $75,000 in the draft of his 2021 budget, up from the $65,000 that the town had been planning to spend on this year’s Fall Fair which had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We looked at…what’s taken place with everybody, the mental well-being, the fact that we didn’t have the event this year, the fact that we looked at potentially running this over a full one week next year, versus just one weekend,” Beal told town council last night as he presented his draft budget.
He explained that town staff wanted to improve things by doing something “bigger and better” for the town.
“(We are) hoping that by next September, we are out of COVID times, there is potentially a vaccine and that we are able to operate our Fall Fair,” Beal said.
The extra $10,000 for the Fall Fair was one of the highlights of what the treasurer described as a “status-quo budget.”
The $11.4 million budget would keep the residential property tax rate at $1.56 per $100 of assessment while maintaining town programs and services.
And, for the second consecutive year, there would be no requirement for borrowing to pay for $1.6 million in general capital spending.
Beal explained that the $65,000 allocated for “council initiatives/priorities” could be used to subsidize arena user fees or for a study of improvements to the skateboard park.
The treasurer noted that the public had requested major spending of up to $500,ooo on the skate park, but town managers decided a smaller amount of money should be spent conducting a study first.
“Is it in the right place? Is it the right size?” Beal asked. “And what is the cost of it?”
He said a study would provide answers that council would need before deciding how much to invest in major improvements.
He also explained that the $35,111 allocated for climate change initiatives would include a $10,000 summer student position.
As for public requests for about $100,000 in upgrades near Exit 506, Beal noted that the town has spent considerable amounts of money on sidewalks and improvements to the Cattail Ridge designated highway.
“So, we are not recommending a significant capital upgrade out there,” he said, although he added that the draft budget contains operational money for such items as flower pots and bike racks to beautify the area.
Beal said that town managers recommend delaying allocating significant capital money for the Exit 506 area until 2022 when more is known about potential private developments on Cattail Ridge across from the Ultramar.
Other budget highlights
Beal said the town is planning to spend $83,000 next year on crosswalk upgrades, most of it for installation of a new traffic light controller at Sackville’s main downtown intersection.
He added that the rest would be spent on new LED signals at other crosswalks including the ones on Main Street at the booster pump and at the corner of Salem and Main.
The draft budget also allocates $90,000 for the extension of Wright Street — a project needed to facilitate construction of a seniors’ home and nursing care complex by JN Lafford Realty.
Beal said water and sewer rates will rise again next year to a minimum of $470 for the largest, single group of users. Council approved those rates in 2017 to help pay for upgrades to the town’s sewage lagoons.
The treasurer warned, however, that council will have to consider increasing rates again next year as the cost of upgrading the two lagoons on Crescent Street is now estimated at around $10 million while upgrading the one in Middle Sackville will likely cost about $4 million.
The upgrades will have to be completed sometime over the next 20 years.
In concluding his two-hour presentation, Beal said that COVID-19 was a constraint because lack of construction activity limited the growth of the town’s tax base.
“We’ve looked at creating a budget that meets within the realities of the pandemic, that does something for all areas and that does some expansion,” he added.
Town council will have a week to study the draft budget before it meets again on October 26th to discuss the proposals and ask questions about them.
Beal said he’s hoping council will be ready to approve the budget at its regular meeting on November 9th so that it can be submitted to the province by the November 15th deadline.
To read the draft budget, click here.