The Town of Conception Bay South will raise the cost of water for residents, but leave property taxes unchanged in its municipal budget for 2014.
Council members unanimously approved the $30.7-million budget at the beginning of Tuesday night’s council meeting at the town hall.
“As the first budget (for me) as mayor of the Town of Conception Bay South, I’m absolutely delighted with the document,” said Mayor Ken McDonald, who was elected to his post in September’s municipal election.
The $30.7-million amount is a 2.3 per cent increase over the 2013 budget figure of $30.0 million.
According to Deputy Mayor Steve Tessier, chairman of the finance committee, the loss of revenue from the Municipal Operating Grant played a significant role in formulating the budget.
That figure came to $525,755 in light of the provincial government’s decision in its last budget to change the way it helps support municipalities, whereby the seven largest municipalities in the province lost access to those grants.
Tessier acknowledged that the town appreciates the one-time capital works program with the government that will be cost-shared and noted negotiations between the province and Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador to find a new fiscal arrangement are ongoing.
“We believe that a new fiscal agreement is imperative to enable municipalities to be sustainable in the long term,” said Tessier.
As for the increase in the water and sewer tax rate from $475 to $540 per residential unit — a 13.7 per cent increase — Tessier called attention to the increasing cost of providing water services.
The cost of purchasing water from the St. John’s Regional Water Authority has quintupled since 2005 from $421,000 to an estimated
$2.1 million in 2014. Operating the distribution system for water is
$3.1 million annually, and the cost to handle debt related to water and sewer infrastructure is $3 million in 2014. In other developments, residents will no longer be able to use credit cards to pay for property taxes, business taxes or water and sewer taxes. Tessier said this move will save the town $175,000. It plans to introduce an online payment option this year for residents.
Speaking to an issue that has been the subject of recent media attention, Tessier said the town will continue to lobby for improved and expanded library services and hopes to secure capital funds for a new library with help from the province.
In the meantime, the town has elected to increase its annual donation to the Conception Bay South Library Board from $12,000 to $20,000 for 2014.
Tessier also made mention of work to expand recreation facilities in the community in the coming years with an eye towards the 2016 Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games.
“We will be identifying additional facilities required to host the games and are optimistic that we will be well prepared to host the best Summer Games ever.”