Advanced planning, the implementation of cost cutting measures, and a forward thinking Council have reduced the impact of current fiscal challenges to tax payers in the Region of Queens Municipality. After several years of minimal changes to the residential and resource tax rate and no increase to the commercial tax rate, it was necessary to increase revenues. The Region of Queens Council approved a budget today that includes a three cent increase in residential and resource tax rates, and a five cent increase to the commercial tax rates.
“We have crunched numbers for a long time, trying to find the smallest impact to the tax payer. Despite this increase, Liverpool continues to have the third lowest commercial rate in the province, and the rate for the Districts 1 – 12 is comparatively low as well,” said Christopher Clarke, Mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality. “Despite the loss of $600,000 in taxation revenue from the Bowater Mill since its closure in 2012, Council has managed to lessen the shock to the economy and has kept taxation low, while still providing a high level of municipal services, and continuing to increase and improve municipal infrastructure. We continue to remain one of the most efficient Municipalities across the province and enjoy our significant reputation as ‘The happening Place’. ”
Tax rates are calculated based on the cost of providing the services needed in a municipality. Some of these costs Council have control over, others they do not. Each of these costs makes up a portion of the tax rate.
“For the past two years, we have seen increases in the policing costs and the education levy. These are both very important services in our community, and vital to the safety and future of Queens. Pairing that with the renegotiation of the Call Centre lease, those outside costs, all of which are vital to the community, have an impact on the tax rate,” said Clarke.
The part of the tax rates that the Region of Queens Municipality can influence are costs of provision of Municipal services. All in house municipal departments’ line items have decreased this year. Public Works, Recreation, Planning, Economic Development and Corporate Services all have made decreases to their budgets.
“We have created reserves for a number of planned capital expenses that we foresee, which builds a fund for replacement, repair or additions of needed capital infrastructure in the Municipality,” said Clarke. “Prudent financial planning like this has ensured that when we have sewer, landfill, fire truck replacement or other capital costs, we don’t have to impact the tax rate.”
The water and sewer project in Brooklyn will continue in early spring. Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will complete the new two lane bridge in Milton this year; the Region of Queens Municipality will relocate the sewage pump station, piping and force-main. A cell expansion at the landfill will take place at a cost of $3.7 million, without the need to borrow. The cell expansion is necessary to sustain the revenue streams, as long term contracts are in place to provide a facility for waste disposal. The fire equipment reserve that was formerly established by policy approval will see the Greenfield and District Fire Association take ownership of a new fire truck this year. Barrier free circulation for the main level of the Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre will be undertaken this year, which will be a significant improvement to the facility. The Queens County skatepark will be built this year. It will be a great municipal asset, increasing the opportunity for youth and skateboarding enthusiasts of all ages to be active.
"During this Council's mandate, we have faced some strong challenges, but from the beginning, we focused on economic development. We have worked hard together as a Council to maintain a low rate to help residents and businesses cope with the loss of several industries over the past three and a half years,” said Clarke. “We have done all we can with departmental resources and if we are going to maintain or build on current service levels, it will be necessary to re-establish those lost revenues. We tried hard to minimize the impact this year on our business community, but the commercial tax rate increase could not be lower and still maintain the services needed in the community.”
To see the 2016/2017 Region of Municipality's operating and capital budgets, go to http://www.regionofqueens.com/residents-and-council/finance/financial-statement/budget .
The Region of Queens Council approved a budget today that includes a three cent increase in residential and resource tax rates, and a five cent increase to the commercial tax rates.
The Operating Budget for 2016/2017 reflects a $2,695 surplus and expenditures of $18,877,139.
The residential and resource rate for District 13 (Liverpool) is $1.90/$100 assessment, and for Districts 1 – 12 is $1.02/$100 assessment.
The commercial tax rate for District 13 is $3.00/$100 assessment and in Districts 1 – 12, it is $2.12/$100 assessment.
The commercial rate had remained unchanged in Queens for the duration of this Council’s mandate, and prior to this had been unchanged since 2011. Liverpool continues to have the third lowest commercial rate in the province, and the rate for the Districts 1 – 12 falls in the middle of the rankings.
32% of the tax rate consists of necessary costs that are levied to the Region of Queens Municipality by outside organizations. These include policing services (RCMP and corrections), education levy, assessment services, and the Western Regional Housing Authority.
The remaining 68% are the cost of services provided by the municipality. Each department has worked diligently to produce budgets that maintain service levels without impacting the tax rate. No new staff has been added. The tax rate impact of operations at Queens Place Emera Centre has not increased from last year.
Financial planning through maintenance of reserves for planned expenditures and infrastructure upgrades has allowed a number of capital projects to be undertaken without impacting the tax rate. The water and sewer project in Brooklyn will continue in early spring, funded through the federal gas tax reserves.
Nova Scotia’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will complete the new two lane bridge in Milton this year; the Region of Queens Municipality will relocate the sewage pump station, piping and force-main funded through the Region's sewer reserve (special operating reserve), and cost shared with TIR.
A cell expansion at landfill will take place, without the need to borrow; this expansion will not impact the tax rate. Landfill revenues form an essential part of the Region’s operating budget. The cell expansion is necessary to sustain these revenue streams, as long term contracts are in place to provide a facility for waste disposal.
The fire equipment reserve that was formerly established by policy approval will see the Greenfield and District Fire Association take ownership of a new fire truck this year. The fire equipment reserve was established to assist the volunteer fire departments in Queens to replace their aging infrastructure; this reserve accounts for two cents of the municipal tax rates, building a fund to contribute to necessary scheduled equipment replacement for all fire departments.
Barrier free circulation for the main level of the Town Hall Arts and Cultural Centre will be an operational project undertaken this year, which will be a significant improvement to the facility.
The Queens County Skatepark Association fundraised over the past three years and met their commitment of funding. Council committed $200,000 plus a donation of the land on which the skatepark will be built, and this year, it will be built. It will be a great municipal asset, increasing the opportunity for youth and skateboarding enthusiasts of all ages to be active.
In an effort to sustain the many jobs at the HGS Call Centre, in recent lease renewal negotiations, Council has discounted their lease renewal by $200,000, in light of the unused space in the building.
The North Queens Innovation Centre and Business Hub, which includes the North Queens Fire Department, is an initiative that Council supported, providing $375,000 in funding which assisted in leveraging funding from other levels of government. This fiscal year marks the final installment in that commitment of funding.
Soon after Bowater closed, the former mill site was purchased by the Province, and Port Mersey Commercial Park and the Innovacorp Demonstration Centre were established. Port Mersey and Innovacorp have been very successful in bringing opportunity to the community. Council is excited about the opportunities for our community through Port Mersey. The ship recycling that is starting there with RJ MacIsaac later this month is a groundbreaking industry for Canada, and will provide work and experience for many residents. Port Mersey is home to such global firsts as Cellufuel producing biodiesel from wood fibre, and Unify Energy erecting windmills that will allow the first wind energy storage system to be tested here. Port Mersey's warehouses are filling, with businesses are setting up shop there.