While both Clarenville Mayor Frazer Russell and council’s finance chair Paul Tilley called the 2019 municipal operating budget a difficult one to construct with the current financial times, the town approved a balanced $11.25 million budget on Tuesday, Dec. 18.
“Our residents expect a certain level of services and they expect them to be done in a cost-effective way, and the budget is the mechanism by which we do it,” said Russell at the meeting.
Coun. Tilley noted, “The most significant challenge this year was balancing the affordability for our residents with the services and programs our town offers.”
Tilley proceeded to detail the 2019 budget including expenditures and revenue, with many aspects of taxation remaining virtually the same compared to previous years, like poll tax.
As for commercial taxation, the mill rate was reduced from 8.5 to 8.
“We are taking steps to assist and grow our business sector,” explained Tilley. “Investments in communications, promotions and economic development are essential for highlighting the business potential of our town.”
He say, business property assessments have generally increased, but the town must support its business community.
They are also offering a prorated discount for business startup occupancy fees.
However, concerning residential property taxes, the Town of Clarenville decided to increase the mill rate from 6.5 in 2018 to 7.4 mills in the new budget. Unlike the business assessments, residential property assessments have decreased.
Tilley says this increase in the residential mill rate was done to keep property taxes around the same level with average assessed property values declining upwards of 15 per cent. He says the hike in mill rate should equate to little or no change to the level of service or tax bills for residents compared to 2018.
“It became apparent that … the town simply couldn’t maintain the level of service that people have come to expect,” said Tilley. He adds that this increase does not burden the taxpayer, but rather keeps revenues at a similar rate for 2019.
In fact, they used the example of a home assessed at $250,000 in 2018, with a 6.5 mill rate, which would pay $1,625 in property tax.
They then attest that assuming a property value decrease to $222,500 in 2019, with a 7.4 mill rate, that same household would pay $1,646.50 in property tax.
Council’s remuneration was overhauled in the 2019 budget, accounting for the now-eliminated one-third tax break for council members.
Tilley explained the revised Clarenville remuneration rate was also decided on to bring compensation for council in line with other communities of similar size, like Bay Roberts, Torbay and Carbonear.
Up until now, the Mayor received $10,000 annually, the Deputy Mayor received $8,000 and each councillor got $7,000, totalling $53,000 or 0.48 per cent of the budget.
In the new scheme, the Mayor receives $14,864, the Deputy Mayor $11,891 and the councillors $10,405 for a total of $78,780 or 0.70 per cent of an $11.25 million budget.
Borrowing continues to be the main expenditure for town, with 35.3 per cent of the town’s 2019 spending designated as fiscal services. The debt service ratio for the town in 2019 is 20 per cent.
For a complete breakdown of the revenues and expenditures by department, see the graphs provided by the town.
“There are certain parts of that budget that I’m very pleased to see, certainly our attention to struggling business in this economy and our emphasis on economic development as well,” said Russell at the conclusion of the meeting. “In spite of the slowdown in the economy it’s nice to see our continued investment in the core infrastructure needs, which is our roads, our water and our sewer. And despite the tight times we are still able to do that.
“It’s a budget that balances and keeps the course in terms of what we would like to keep on doing in the coming years.”
CLARENVILLE 2019 BUDGET PLANNED EXPENDITURES
• General Administration $1,421,980
• Fire and protective services $361,500
• Transportation services $2,519,004
• Environmental health $1,675,330
• Planning and development $164,450
• Recreational and cultural services $1,135,781
• Fiscal services $3,976,081
CLARENVILLE 2019 BUDGET PLANNED REVENUE
• Property tax (residential) $3,826,500
• Property tax (commercial) $1,088,500
• Business tax $2,072,500
• Water and sewer fees $1,720,000
• Provincial contribution to debt services $876,800
• Other revenue $299,200
• Recreation revenue $530,000
• Poll tax $270,000
• Gas tax grant and other grants $337,367
• Municipal operating grant $233,259
Residential and commercial permits at near standstill
In 2018, there were only six new permits issued for residential dwellings in Clarenville, compared to 16 in 2017 and 26 in 2016.
Only one new permit for a commercial enterprise was issued in 2018 — down from four in 2017.