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Former Steady Brook councillor says mill rate increase was not needed

Thistle - Star file photo

The Town of Steady Brook increased its mill rate from five to six when it brought in its 2018 budget earlier this month.

Mayor Donna Thistle said the decision to increase the mill rate was made because her council feels paying down the debt that was borrowed as fast as possible is important.

She said the town won't accumulate any new debt in the four years of this council term.

That increase is something a former councillor says wasn’t needed, however.

Claude Wilton served as a councillor in the town for 27 years before deciding not to run in this past fall’s municipal election. For many of those years he served as chair of the town’s finance committee.

“I know how much money we got, I know how much money is in the bank, I know how much money it takes to run this town. We don’t need to put the mill rate up,” he said.

Wilton said his last council watched every dollar it spent and the town had more than $300,000 in the bank when it left office.

He said the situation in the town today is different than it was a few years ago when times were good and property values went way up. He said a lot of homes are not selling and he thinks the council should have held off on changing the mill rate until next year, which is an assessment year, to see what’s going to happen.

He's also said the town has done a lot over the past couple of years including building new fire hall, which was cost shared with the province.

“We don’t pay off something like a new maintenance building and fire hall in two years. You plan that over 20 years.”

Mayor Thistle, however, disagrees.

“By borrowing money to fund your share of capital cost you insulate your taxpayers from a rate increase.

“But that money has to be paid back at some point,” she said.

Thistle would not confirm the surplus amount the town has, and said it is something that many municipalities have.

She’s not judging the past council, but said she would have used some of that money to cover what it borrowed.

“It’s just a difference of opinion on how you should run a town. And that’s what happens when you elect a new council, sometimes there’s a different of opinion on how the town’s financial affairs should be managed,” she said.

“This council’s approach to financial management is to not pass the debt down to generations. We believe it should be paid for when it’s built.”

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