A “win” for the residents of Deer Lake is how Coun. Amanda Freake described the town’s 2019 budget on Monday night.
Residents won’t see an increase in their property taxes as the town’s residential mill rate will remain at 7 mills.
And with a surplus from the amount collected in garbage fees in 2018, the town was able to reduce the fee from the expected $227 per unit for 2019 to $165.
As chair of the town’s finance committee, Freake presented the budget during a council meeting at the town office on Monday night. Afterwards, she said it wasn’t an easy task to bring in the balanced budget of $7,896,810 million.
With property assessments down, the town will see a loss in revenue. But as noted in her budget speech, the town’s debt-to-service ratio for 2019 sits at 14 per cent, giving the town significant flexibility.
It’s that flexibility that enabled council to keep the mill rate status quo.
When the town introduced a waste management fee in 2018, it was done as a separate line item in the budget and Freake continued with that strategy for 2019.
“I wanted to keep it very transparent for the residents, so they could see money in, money out, money used, money not.”
In 2018, the amount was set at $116.50 for a projected six months of service to have the town’s waste transported to the transfer station in Hampden. But the program was delayed in starting and the town only had to cover the cost for just under three months, resulting in the surplus.
With only two and half months on actual waste management cost, Freake projected a cost of over $540,000 for 2019.
She said that projected cost may not be the actual cost when new tender for curbside collection is awarded.
“This council is committed to getting that costing down. We cannot afford a $50,000 a month garbage costing.”
To get costing down, the town will be looking at all aspects of waste management, including making it easier for residents to compost, thus reducing the weight of the waste transported to the transfer station.
“United as a council, we don’t like how much this is costing our residents because of the kilometres the garbage has to go,” said Freake.
Low income home owners will also benefit from the new budget as the town has removed home values in the sliding scale that is used to reduce their property, water and sewer tax obligations.
Freake said it will now be solely based on income.
The town did increase business taxes for banks and financial services, drug stores,
funeral homes and hotels and motels to bring them more in line with amounts in other areas of the province.
Freake said these are sectors that had not seen an increase in several years.