The Town of Bay Roberts passed its budget on Dec. 10 and once again the big focus is on infrastructure.
“It’s focused on infrastructure and equipment needs,” Mayor Phillip Wood said. “Infrastructure is something we’ve been investing in for years, concentrating on storm water, sidewalks and wastewater. So we intend to continue that.”
Some of the projects planned, he said, are extending the sidewalks from the crossroads to the main highway, upgrading the main road into Shearstown, and work on Whitney Street to improve the water supply.
The budget, which balanced at $7.8 million, is up slightly from last year and Wood said it covers a number of things.
Lift stations in the town will be getting some upgrades, money will be going to the fire department for some new equipment, and the town is buying a new excavator and truck.
“We’ve invested a lot in our trails and parks over the last few years so we need to make sure that crew has the equipment to keep it maintained. We’re also preparing for the 2020 Summer Games being held in Bay Roberts in August. We have a committed group of volunteers here and we’re going to be making some upgrades.”
Some of the upgrades are at the Bay Arena, swimming pool and tennis courts around town to accommodate the games.
Staffing is a big part of any budget and Wood said recently signed collective agreements with their unionized workers will allow them to better plan future budgets.
“With both being four-year agreements it gives us the stability to forecast our budgets more so we’re very proud of that,” he said.
Wood said there is no mill rate increase this year, for either residential or commercial properties. He can't recall the last time it was increased, which he said is to the betterment of the community.
“We think it paid off,” he said. “We’re over 6,000 people now and over the past number of years we had a lot of houses built here, in excess of 600 homes.“
The town will be pushing again this year to collect back taxes, Wood said, which was very successful last year.
“The province has been pushing municipalities to collect these,” he said. “As part of being a financially-prudent town, we will continue to collect back taxes this year.”
While there are no increases in taxes, some may notice a difference on their bills, Wood said. The province has been prompting municipalities to collect water and sewer taxes on vacant properties that are hooked onto the system.
“Under the Municipalities Act anyone served by water and sewer has to pay taxes on it. Of course, anyone connected is already paying but there was some vacant land that wasn’t being charged. It’s not a discretionary tax and Municipal Affairs is saying to all municipalities that we have to collect it, even if the land is vacant but serviceable.”
Wood said the cost will be half what people who are connected are paying but he wants people to be aware they may see this on their bill this year. Wood said Municipal Affairs advised not collecting the tax could delay some funding so Bay Roberts, along with a number of other municipalities, will now collect water and sewer taxes on vacant properties.
The budget has been sent to Municipal Affairs for approval.