There won't be any municipal tax increases for residents of Carbonear in 2020.
That was one of the highlights of the $7.5 million budget recently adopted by the town.
The budget came in at $7,493,902, to be precise, and Mayor Frank Butt told SaltWire the town is happy with its fiscal situation.
Butt said the town's debt servicing ratio is only 14 per cent, less than half of the 30 per cent threshold set up Municipal Affairs.
“We’re well below that but we’re doing a lot of work in Carbonear,“ he said. “We’re doing it in a financially sound way and not incurring large debt.”
Some of the big-ticket items in this year's budget are transportation infrastructure, recreation, and environmental health.
Just under a third of the budget is set aside for transportation services, coming in at $2,433,489.
Butt told SaltWire there is a lot of work planned for the upcoming year for transportation, largely in conjunction with federal and provincial funding.
The town has budgeted $600,000 for asphalt and $60,000 for curbs and sidewalks, part of $4.2 million in funding the town has applied for in infrastructure projects to upgrade water, sewer, and roads. Phase two of the Downtown Revitalization project funded by ACOA, the province, and the town is scheduled to go ahead this year.
Recreation and culture high on list
Butt said the over $1.1 million allotted for recreation and culture covers several projects, including continued renovations and new video surveillance equipment at the pool, expansion of the Princess Sheila NaGeira theatre building, upgrades to softball facilities and $12,000 for uprights for Avalon Minor Football.
Butt said the group came to the area a few years ago and football has been growing in popularity since. He said this will be a big help for the sport in the region, which he thinks will continue to grow.
The theatre upgrades are about $1 million, Butt said, with the town paying 10 per cent.
“The spinoff from that alone will certainly pay dividends to the residents and corporate citizens of the town,” he said. “It brings people into town, visiting different venues and businesses.”
The upgrades to the pool will make it more accessible, he said and increase the size of the change rooms, which will cost about $500,000.
Landfill and garbage fees raised
There will be an increase in garbage collection fees and landfill fees, which is the first time in over three years, Butt said. Those rates are set by the Eastern Service Board (SP) and went up from $67 a ton to $75 a ton.
Butt pointed out it costs much less for recycling, which he would like to see continue to increase in the town.
“I’d like to see a fairly massive project to educate people on recycling,” he said. “It brings down the coast of garbage disposal and is a benefit to the environment.”
He said the annual cleanup day is pretty well attended and leaf composting is popular in town but he’s like to see more. The total amount budgeted for Environmental Health is $693,395.
Wastewater a concern
The town also put $100,00 away for the impending changes to federal wastewater regulations, which has been a concern to municipalities across the province. So far the town has $500,000 in the fund, which Butt says they know won’t be enough.
The legislative changes will mean big infrastructure upgrades will be required for many towns and cities and Carbonear is no exception.
“We estimated the cost would be over $20 million to put in a waste treatment centre and even with us contributing 20 per cent that’s $8 million. We don’t have that cash. So we’ve been squirreling away $100,00 a year. It won’t cover what needs to be done but it shows we are trying.”
Butt said the federal government needs to provide a lot more funding if they want these wastewater regulations to work and be effective. Raising taxes would be the only way for Carbonear to get more funding, Butt said, and he knows no one in the province has the appetite for that.
“The people of the province are petty heavily taxed, people do not want another increase at this particular time,” he said.
Low-income program continued
The town is offering an Interest Adjustment Policy to assist residents whose combined taxable family income is below $50,000 to pay their town taxes.
Butt said they recognize they have people from different economic strata in the town and this program helps people who want to use a payment plan.
The budget has now been submitted to Municipal Affairs for approval.