Town maintains services, tax rate in 2014 operating budget

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SACKVILLE, N.B. – Residents will see their municipal tax rate stay the same for another year.

Sackville town council approved its 2014 general operating budget Monday night, setting the tax rate at $1.535 per $100 of assessment, a rate that has remain unchanged for the past decade.

In his report to council, treasurer Michael Beal said although the town will see a 40 per cent drop in its unconditional grant from the province in 2014, reduced from $371,601 last year to this year’s $217,185 figure, the town will fortunately see its municipal tax base go up thanks to a 3.5 per cent increase in assessments, resulting in an additional $300,000 of revenue.

Beal said residents can expect the same level of services to be maintained, with only about $215,000 more expected to be spent on operating costs in 2014 in a $10.1-million budget.

Many of the departments will face slight increases to expenses in the coming year due to costs related to staffing, maintenance/repairs, programming, and facility operations. But the economic development department will be left vacant in 2014, so expenses will be down significantly in that sector.

The finance and administration department will see its budget go up by about eight per cent due to an increase in staffing costs, to operate the new municipal building, and an allocation for implementation of council’s strategic priorities for the coming year.

Fire department expenses will also go up, as a result of costs to operate the new building, equipment repair and maintenance. Police costs will be up five per cent due to an increase in RCMP contract fees and costs to operate the new building.

On the public works side of things, expenses are expected to be up in 2014 because of increased costs of street patching and street lighting. In engineering, however, expenses will be down as a result of a decrease in salaries (as a new engineering manager is expected to be hired to take on the public works and engineering director position being vacated by longtime staffer George Woodburn).

Tourism will see its expenses up slightly as a result of increased staff costs, increase in trade show participation and building repairs/maintenance; and community development/programming will see an increase as well as a result of staffing costs for summer programming initiatives.

More folks need to understand where their tax dollars are going . . . and how much it takes to run the programs and operate the services in this community. Coun. Shawn Mesheau

The parks and recreation facilities department will see a slight increase to its 2014 budget, with staffing costs going up as well as increased costs to maintain the parks and civic centre.

The library will also get a budget increase for anticipated building repairs in 2014.

Beal said fortunately, as a result of the town reducing its annual repayment on long-term debt, the municipality will have less debt charges in 2014 and is hoping to put more into capital out of revenue.

“This will continue to allow us to do more capital projects with less borrowing,” said Beal in his report.

Coun. Shawn Mesheau said although he is pleased with the work staff has put into this year’s budget, and in being able to maintain services without a rate hike, the town needs to continue to remain diligent in how it spends taxpayer dollars.

Mesheau said the town will soon see its unconditional grant from the province reduced to zero over the next couple of years, which would result in an automatic five-cent increase to the tax rate should the current level of services and programs stay as they are.

“We’ve made great strides this year but more work needs to go towards that,” he said. “More folks need to understand where their tax dollars are going . . . and how much it takes to run the programs and operate the services in this community.”

Meanwhile, residents will also see no changes to their water and sewer rates in the coming year.

Town council also passed its 2014 utility budget during Monday’s meeting, which will see an increase to staffing expenses as well as costs to operate the water treatment plant and the lift stations; but expenses will be down as a result of a debenture being paid off and smaller debenture being issued than expected.  

The town even anticipates being able to put $8,800 into the general capital reserve fund in its utility budget to pay for future capital projects.

“This would be the first budgeted deposit to the reserve fund in years and is possible as a result of debt having been paid off from prior projects,” said Beal.

Extra copies of the budgets are available at the front desk of town hall.

 

Organizations: Sackville town council, RCMP

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  • Will
    December 15, 2013 - 08:57

    New building and ongoing debt payments, park enhancements, boat launch, annual flowers, diverted gas taxes not used on road repairs ...I can think of lots of places to start cutting if you want to call me.