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LETTER: Response to the Town of Paradise's 2019 budget

The Town of Paradise and NAPE reach a deal. All town facilities will be open for business on Monday.
The Town of Paradise and NAPE reach a deal. All town facilities will be open for business on Monday. - Beth Penney

The Town of Paradise unanimously approved the 2019 budget which saw an additional increase in resident’s property tax mill rate plus an extra $50 on water and sewer fees.

In 2018 the total town revenue was $35,778,741 and in 2019 it is $37,373,108… an increase of $1,594,367 even though there was a decrease in property values in the 2019 budget.  The Paradise council still generated an extra $1.6 million in revenue.

There should not have been an increase in taxes to the residents of the Town of Paradise for a number of reasons. I have highlighted the increase in 2019 over 2018 above. There was no increase in the mill rate for property tax revenue-commercial.  The revenue increase by $380,840 (13.9 per cent).  The business tax revenue increased by $286,066 (6.7 per cent), water and sewer fees for residents are increased by $457,750 (10.2 per cent), government transfer – other grants increased by $254,227 (554 per cent).

C.B.S., which is a bigger municipality than Paradise, calculated and reduced its expenses to balance its budget. Holyrood also brought down a balanced budget without any increase in taxes.

Paradise should have done the same. 

There are areas where Paradise could have reduced expenses. 

Recreation could have been reviewed where the salaries are 65 per cent of the budget. They could have reduced general administration by eliminating administrative assistants for directors and the CAO which are not required.

In the budget speech the chair of the finance committee, Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Laurie, said the town was creating an infrastructure reserve fund and in 2019 would be investing $1 million to the reserve.  In actual fact in 1997 the council at the time set up an infrastructure fund of $1,000 for every house that developers sold. This fund was established to install water and sewer for the remaining streets in old Paradise.

In September of 2005 when the new council was elected, this fund was increased to $3,000 per lot.  From 2006 to 2018 there should have been approximately $10 million to $12 million dollars available to complete those remaining streets.

Instead this money was put into general revenue which, in 2017/2018 left, 16 streets without water and sewer. Those streets should have been serviced 10 years ago.

At the end of the Dec. 18, 2018 budget meeting a resident asked the full council “where is the money for my street.”

Mayor Dan Bobbett said council would have to wait and see what capital funds the town will receive from the provincial government.

This was not the right answer because there should have been in the 2019 budget an amount representing the town’s share of the provincial government’s capital funding.

The chair of finance stated in her 2019 budget speech that residents would only have to pay approximately an extra $10 per month in property taxes. 

What remained unsaid is that this increased tax is in addition to the thousands of dollars already being paid to council each year for each house.

As well, Paradise just like St. John’s and Mount Pearl, who used the same example, didn’t seem to grasp that this $10-per-month increase is in addition to extra money being paid out each month on heating bills, light bills, phone bills etc.  People on low or fixed incomes have to sacrifice to pay these extra expenses when it is council’s duty in this bad economy to find ways to decrease their expenses (just like C.B.S. and Holyrood) and not pass on unnecessary cost to tax payers.

With regard to other financial matters the town is required under section 86 of the Municipalities Act, to submit their 2017 audited statements to the Department of Municipal Affairs by June 30 2018. 

As of Jan. 15, 2019 Paradise has still not submitted their financial statements. This is contrary to the Municipalities Act.

In conclusion the residents of Paradise tax payers should not be burdened with any increase.

Fred W. Brown

Former mayor,

Paradise

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Business-friendly budgets in Mount Pearl, Paradise

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