Mill rates down, poll tax up in Corner Brook

Jamie Bennett
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The city of Corner Brook has reduced its residential and commercial mill rates for 2013. Citing a need to maintain service while reducing the sting of rising costs, Deputy Mayor Donna Luther unveiled the budget Monday night.

Luther, who is co-chair of the city’s budget committee along with Coun. Leo Bruce, presented the budget during the final council meeting of the year.

As part of her budget speech, Luther said with a 24 per cent average increase in municipal assessments for residential properties and a 15 per cent hike for commercial properties, council opted to reduce mill rates in order to help ease the burden on taxpayers in 2013.

Next year, the mill rate will be set at eight mills, a decrease of 13.5 per cent from the 9.25 mill rate in 2012. The mill rate on commercial properties will be reduced to 12.5 mills from 13.5 mills.

Based on long-term financial planning, Luther said council doesn’t expect the mill rate to be adjusted over the next three-year assessment cycle. She said through the city’s first budget consultation process this year, it was clear that citizens were concerned about taxes and council made every effort to present a budget which addresses these concerns.

“I think we did what we had to do,” Luther said Monday. “People were expecting, for the most part, to have to pay more taxes but we put a lot of effort into it and I think we got it to where people have to pay as little as possible knowing full well we have to run the city.”

Under current assessments and next year’s mill rate, a home valued at $200,000 in 2012 would be valued at $248,000 in 2013, for an increase of $134 per year.

For the first time since 2002, poll taxes will rise from $175 yearly to $200, a sum which could represent $425,000 in revenue for the city in 2013.

The city’s sewer levy will be set at $90, while the water levy will be $100, an increase of $10 per year for each.

Luther said these fees will be used towards the city’s borrowing costs against its new water treatment plant, as well as for future requirements once the project begins.

There will be a $15 per unit increase for water and sewer for both residential and commercial properties.

Also as part of the budget, $1.2 million will be set aside for new equipment such as a street cleaner, salt truck and a new pothole-patching machine. Luther said the patching machine will allow one city worker to pave potholes quickly and safely as they appear, something she said should be more efficient than the current system.

Prior to adopting the budget, which is balanced at $31,198,100, Coun. Donna Francis tried to amend the budget to reduce the allotted cash for council travel from $40,000 to $35,000.

Mayor Neville Greeley said since the budget was balanced, Francis would be required to find somewhere else to spend the $5,000 as part of her amendment.

After suggesting the money go towards recreational programs, Francis, Coun. Priscilla Boutcher and Coun. Linda Chaisson, voted for the amendment but were defeated 4-3 and the budget was subsequently passed, unchanged.

With an election year in 2013, the budget will be the final one tabled by the current council.

Corner Brook Budget 2013 Highlights:

— Public Art funding up 50 per cent

— $100,000 investment in improving recreational infrastructure

— City reverting to two-bus transit system

— Curb and sidewalk repair/maintenance increased by $185,000 for total of $300,000

— Grant funding for community partners increased by 25 per cent

— $3.1 million investment in capital works projects including $841 million in gas tax funding

— Number of business classifications reduced from 11 to 8

— Business tax mill rate decreased from 19 mills to 17, affecting at least 525 properties and businesses in 2013

— Mobile vendor fee reduced by $250 annually

— Operational spending increase of 1.69 per cent $4,468,600 in net dept payments

Source: City of Corner Brook

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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