Tantramar Town Council hears resident complaints about high taxes & few municipal services

The spectator gallery was crowded Tuesday night as more than 50 residents showed up to watch Tantramar Town Council discuss several controversial topics including the thorny issue of tax rates.

Former Sackville councillor Ken Hicks, who lives in Frosty Hollow, spoke on behalf of residents living within the boundaries of the former Town of Sackville who complain that they’re paying high taxes while receiving few municipal services.

“I just want to be sure that council understands that we’re not here talking about the amalgamation, we’re not here talking about the New Brunswick government’s tax assessment, we’re talking strictly about services that the town provides and the tax rate that’s levied against them,” Hicks said.

Ken Hicks speaking for Tantramar residents who feel they’re overtaxed

“When it comes to sidewalks or things like that, drainage and what not, yes those are important things that everyone would like to have, but we’re talking about the core items, water, sewer, things that have been promised in the past through the annexation that have never been followed up on,” he added.

Hicks was referring to promises he said were made in 1975 when the provincial government extended Sackville’s boundaries to include areas to the west as well as Middle and Upper Sackville.

At the time, the Sackville Tribune-Post quoted Mayor Percy Trenholm as saying that residents in the amalgamated areas would not pay town tax rates until they received the same level of municipal services.

“Despite having nearly 50 years to install infrastructure to provide access to these services, the town of Sackville failed to do so,” Hicks said.

“And now [they] deliver the excuse that these are ratepayer services,” he added, referring to the fact that residents who do receive water and sewer services pay separate utility rates for them in addition to their property taxes.

He argued that it means that he and his neighbours must pay for and maintain their own wells and septics, while paying the same tax rates as Sackville residents who do have access to core services, a situation that also applies to Ward 4, which includes Upper Sackville.

“We can conclude that the challenge to extend services is not a focus for the town,” Hicks said, adding that the taxes he and his neighbours pay have been used to upgrade and maintain services in the town core that is now part of Ward 3.

Meantime, aggrieved residents have set up a Facebook page named “Over Taxed and Un-serviced in Tantramar.” A flyer they distributed recently to about 250 homes points out that residents west of Sackville, who are within the old town boundaries, are paying $1548.40 on a home assessed at $100,000 while their neighbours across the train tracks in the former Sackville local service district pay $924.

From the flyer distributed recently west of Sackville

Council reaction

Mayor Andrew Black responded to Hicks’s presentation by pointing out that the 2023 tax rates were set by the province as part of the amalgamation process, but since it officially took office on January 1st, Tantramar council now has that power.

“We now have full authority to make any changes to taxation rates that we wish,” Black said.

He added that council can discuss the five different rates in the three former LSDs as well as Sackville and Dorchester when it sets the 2024 budget.

Other members of council agreed.

Councillor Barry Hicks, who represents Ward 2, sparked a few outbursts from spectators when he focussed most of his response on municipal/provincial sharing agreements for snow plowing.

Ward 2 Councillor Barry Hicks faced some heckling

“Ward 2 needs the taxes looked at some time or another. It will be next year, we can’t do anything this year,” he began.

“Some of Ward 2 is being maintained by the town, it’s being plowed, it’s [having] ditches done, the roads are being paved, they’re being patched, their lines are painted and some of Ward 2 has nothing, nothing’s being done, it’s still being plowed by DTI [provincial department of transportation and infrastructure],” Hicks said.

Mayor Black called for order as one resident shouted objections.

Councillor Hicks, who worked for many years in Sackville’s public works department, then continued to talk about the complicated municipal/provincial sharing arrangements.

“So, the ones that are being plowed by DTI, that was traded off years ago when the town amalgamated. Before, the town plowed some DTI roads and DTI plowed some of the town ones, so when you see a DTI plow going by your house, it doesn’t mean the town is not plowing it,” he said as members of the audience murmured objections.

“So, some of Ward 2 is plowed by the town and some is plowed by DTI. So, there’s two different systems there for Ward 2,” Councillor Hicks concluded.

Ward 4 Councillor Matt Estabrooks

Councillor Matt Estabrooks, who represents Ward 4, said his property and the one where he grew up are included in the higher Sackville tax rates.

“It is difficult,” he said, “and I’ve heard a lot of confusion, that I hope will be cleared up, around the fact that the electoral wards are just that.

“I think there was an assumption out there that tax rates would be tied to the electoral wards…and it is a concern,” he said.

“I think that we will have to take a look, I feel we should probably take a look. We have five individual tax rates and as Mayor Black has said, we do have the opportunity next year going forward to potentially address or adjust, but this year the rates were set by the provincial government.”

Meantime, Ward 3 Councillors Allison Butcher and Michael Tower, who live on Walker Road, pointed out that they too have no water and sewer services.

“I live within Sackville,” Butcher said, “but we have never had services.”

Councillor Allison Butcher

She added that the tax problem is one that is not new to amalgamation, but more people are now affected by it and council will have to deal with it in the coming year.

“I think it would be lovely if we could figure out a way that the tax rate would be based more on what services you actually get,” Butcher said.

“How we do that, I don’t know, but right now we’re stuck with what the province has given us.”

“I live in a two-bedroom bungalow and my taxes are over $5,000 a year,” Councillor Tower said.

“I don’t have water and I don’t have sewer,” he added.

“Then, you go to West Sackville, [and] a person who doesn’t have water and sewer, he lives the same distance from the fire hall I do, so if there’s a fire, we’re both going to get the same kind of service, but his taxes are half of mine, for what reason?” Tower asked.

“This is a serious problem and it’s going to be a difficult one, but I think we have to deal with it.”

For an earlier story on Tantramar tax rates, click here.

For Erica Butler’s CHMA story on the Greene family’s call for fairer taxes, click here.

This entry was posted in NB Municipal Reform, Town of Tantramar and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tantramar Town Council hears resident complaints about high taxes & few municipal services

  1. Wayne Feindel Puppet of the people says:

    Enough already! Thanks to Deputy Mayor Greg flagging the fact that vital information about the nuisances of finance and the grant system, that maybe the decision makers council could have some “Training” and I’ll because it was my oversight
    portfolio add CSC corrections Canada contract for Tantramar services ,and any changes with Fort Folly which saved the village school. Don’t you want to know council why Tantramar Citizens are the only community that subsidizes a Federal institution. Not Oromocto. Not Springhill, Not Kingston. Property tax, building permits , police and fire equipment and training are all billed to you. There is not that many things that need to be kept under wraps from the public. Successive governments in Fredericton have kicked us around enough. Time for them to kiss down and for us to kick up. 1. Of course there is the big picture once elected. BUT remember this, your loyalty to the citizens comes first. You are not here to service, Canada, the province , the Mayor. you are here to serve your citizens and you not them will define what the greater {indefinite good as I call it} Citizens are being seriously hurt and council knows it. Everyone said as much, but citizens asked what council is going to do now. The mayor speaking at most meeting I attended pulled the Municipal act made me do it or Somebody told me, I had to vote every time or we think this. You also need staff present professional reports. Often staff leave out what they call deficits. Anecdotal summaries, assumptions, interpretations are in there very nature strategies or actions, but not the facts you need. As of January 1,2023 the New Municipal act with its stated permissiveness and broad nature of powers are councils. It is going to be tough on everyone but you are taking your town back. There should be no delusions now that as always you are going to have to fight for everything. “Shep” the “furnishings at hall”, and the unrealistic unequal property tax are ‘fash points “of lack of leadership from the very top.. There are some very serious missteps and incidents that require full transparency, openness and accountability.. Council should start a paper trail of their attempts to take action now. On the consent agenda as a standing order should be correspondence from citizens. I’m interested for that greater good to see some discussion in public and the action taken by council. The new PEI municipal act covered this and the town council proposed by resolution something like this. All most forgot. Mayor Black would be much amiss if the special privilege (common Law ) that allows the Mayor to pick councilors oversight duties. Lets start with a resolution. It needs only be a Notice of Motion and the Whereas’ can follow….. Frowned on these days, but I don’t think a motion to except Einstein’s theories would have gotten far with out an explanation. Be it resolved that the Town of Tantramar request the government order, on behalf of the citizens of the newly amalgamated community of Tantramar, an independent audit of polices, procedures, and finances.

    Be it Further Resolved that the Tantramar asks the Department of Municipalities for the most recent projection figures of savings and expenses at Regional municipal commissions and provincial offices in administrations costs resulting from amalgamation, when travel and communication costs of administrators, facilitators are included, as well as rental, renovation and new structure costs.
    Be it Further Resolved that these findings be made available to the public for their participation with council for the 2024 budget… Copies to MLA, Premier, Minster of Municipalities. That’s it for tonight folks. An example of a whereas before the motion is made: Whereas there is little accountability when provincial officials through a highly sophisticated provincial hegemony control all matters that are important to council and citizens. That’s it for tonight.

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