SACKVILLE, N.B. – Sackville residents can expect the same services and programs in 2019 as they enjoyed this year – and without any additional hikes to their municipal tax rate.
Town council approved its 2019 general operating budget last Monday night, bringing with it news that the tax rate will remain unchanged at $1.56 per $100 of assessment.
“That means for a $100,000 home, the property owner would be paying $1,560 in taxes,” said treasurer Michael Beal.
The $10.99-million budget is up slightly from last year’s, with about $153,000 more in operating costs expected. Although those increased costs will be offset by a 2.36 per cent increase in property assessment values, resulting in an additional $228,000 to Sackville’s tax base, Beal pointed out last year’s numbers weren’t so good and the town took a significant hit with a $144,000 reduction to its tax base. So if you factor in the two years, he said the town has only seen a less than one per cent increase. But this will still allow the town to maintain its usual services at relatively the same level for the coming year.
“It provides for a status quo budget with a few minor additions,” said Beal, noting the popular sidewalk chalk festival from 2017 will return to the schedule in 2019.
The town will also be increasing its capital out of revenue from $950,000 to $1 million, allowing for more funds to be available when needed for capital projects rather than borrowing for them.
Beal also noted another slight decrease to the town’s equalization grant, which is set at about $65,000 for 2019. He pointed out, however, that other similar-sized municipalities in New Brunswick receive much more in equalization payments. In fact, of nine other comparable communities with a population ranging from 4,000 to 6,000, the average grant was $712,000.
He said Sackville is considered a “rich municipality” due to its tax base, which factors in the university, compared to its population size; and this is why the town receives such a small amount. But he argues the province’s numbers don’t calculate in the student population and the services the town provides to them throughout the year.
“With the university comes 2,200 or 2,300 students who live here eight months of the year,” he said.
Over the past 26 years, Sackville has lost annual grant funding of over $950,000. But even with that loss, Beal explained the town has managed to keep its tax rate hikes to a minimum over that time, only increasing it by nine cents per $100 of assessment. And some of that was a result of the switchover to the RCMP and construction of the new rink.
“We haven’t exorbitantly increased our tax rate.”
Meanwhile, in presenting the 2019 utility budget, Beal said water and sewer rates will go up again in 2019, part of a rate increase that was approved by council back in 2017.
“2019 will be the third year of the five-year rate increase to cover the necessary expense of the water/sewer utility as well as allocate money into the reserve fund to build and plan for the future (sewer) lagoon upgrades.”
Starting in 2017, the water and sewer rates have been increasing incrementally and will continue to do so until 2021 to pay for what could potentially be a $10-million project. Under the 2019 rate hike, the largest single group of residential water users, those who pay the minimum charge, will see their quarterly bills increase by $9.10 ($36.40 annually) - going up to $99.30 per quarter.