CLARENVILLE, NL — Clarenville council brought down its budget for 2018 this evening with projected revenues and expenses balanced at $11,052,155.
Given the recent economic downturn, finance committee chair Coun. Paul Tilley said balancing the budget was difficult.
"The lack of growth and development, coupled with the conclusion of the Hebron project, continued downturn in the fishery and the completion of the trans-provincial power line project have created additional challenges in preparing this document,” Tilley said.
“Once again this year, the extra revenue we have come to rely on for much-needed road and infrastructure repair is projected to be low, making it very difficult to present a balanced budget.”
Tilley said there will be a significant challenge in continuing to provide services residents expect and enjoy, and ensuring the town can come up with the required funds to keep making improvements on aging infrastructure while still being affordable to residents.
In light of the dilemma, council has decided to increase the residential mill rate from 5.9 mills to 6.5 mills.
"The important thing is are we providing value?" Tilley told The Packet, in relation to the mill-rate increase.
"That's the ultimate question we have to ask the taxpayer. For the amount of money you're paying, are you getting a good, quality service out of it? We feel that, on the whole, Clarenville provides a very good value to people."
Tilley said that for the average homeowner in Clarenville, the increase would only be about $12 a month.
According to Tilley, the town’s mill rate, even after the increase, remains one of the lowest in the province.
"People live here because of the amenities, because of the services, because of the amount of things here,” Tilley said. “That’s what makes our town attractive to people, and they're very important. So the challenge is how to you maintain those with a decreasing (tax) pool?"
Lower-income families, meanwhile, will have more opportunity to qualify for tax reduction. The low-income threshold has been increased from $20,000 to $25,000 in the budget.
As well, there was no change in commercial property mill rate in the budget, which will remain at 8.5 mills. Business classifications, poll tax, and water and sewer rates have also been kept the same.
Tilley concluded that the budget leaves the town with a 20 per cent debt ratio, which is well under the 30 per cent threshold permitted by the provincial government.
It leaves the town in good standing with the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment should an emergency occur and the need to borrow money arise, he said.