ANTIGONISH: Councillors in the Municipality of the County of Antigonish have once again held the line on their municipal taxes.
Council unanimously approved their 2019-20 Municipal Operating and Capital Budget during its regular municipal council meeting on May 21.
For the 11th-consecutive year, the residential tax rate remains at $0.88 per $100 of assessment, while their commercial rate, the lowest in the province, also stays the same at $1.46.
Owen McCarron, Antigonish County’s Warden, said following the meeting, there were a number of factors to address to present a $15.3 million budget, but keeping the tax rate the same is something council has strived to do for a long time.
“The municipality continues to be a strong financial steward, demonstrated by our ability to invest in municipal operations and infrastructure, pay down debt, and maintain one of the most competitive tax rates in the province, both residential and commercial,” McCarron said.
McCarron indicated that council feels keeping a low tax rate is attractive to prospective residents and businesses.
“If we keep good competitive rates, both commercial and residential, it shows that we are open for people to come to the community,” he said. “It makes it affordable, and when we look at the average cost of residential assessment for residents in the county, it’s still pretty affordable when you look at other communities across the province.”
McCarron spoke on the importance of having a competitive tax rate for commercial growth in the area and provided an example that is starting to unfold right before his eyes, less than a kilometer from the municipal office.
“We look at East Gate Ridge, the new development that’s just starting, we look at Nova Landing, another example of development, so when you have a good commercial tax rate, it does drive businesses to look at our area,” he explained. “And of course the Shell Beech Hill Tim Hortons, was sort of the start of that.”
Some of the major expenses included in this year’s budget include a mandatory $3,551,460 contribution to the province for education, which accounts for 23.2 per cent of the budget, and a $3,242,327 contribution for protective services, which accounts for 21.2 per cent.
The municipality continues to invest in community partnership with the Town of Antigonish in excess of $425,000 for joint initiatives and operations such as The Sandlot (accessible ball field), Skate Park, Antigonish Community Transit, Antigonish Arena, People’s Place Library, and the Antigonish Heritage Museum.
The municipality also continues to honour its $500,000 contribution to The Time Is Now Campaign in aid of St. Martha’s Regional Hospital Foundation and will be contributing $200,000 to the new Antigonish Farmers Market.
The budget also highlights $2.2 million in capital investments including; accessibility upgrades and an expansion of the parking lot at the municipal office; the purchase of a new recycling collection vehicle; repaving Cape Jack Wharf Road and a section of Mount Cameron Circle; waterline extensions in North Grant, Church Street to Beech Hill Road and Cameron Kinney Hill; improvements and upgrades to sewer systems in Lower South River, Heatherton and Pomquet; and the establishment of a permanent facility for household hazardous waste at the Beech Hill Solid Waste Management Facility.
As part of the municipality’s budget deliberations, councillors also increased their low-income threshold to $27,000, an eight per cent increase, from the previous threshold of $25,000, while also increasing the tax exemption to $150 from $125.
“There are lots of people on marginal incomes and obviously it’s important to give them a little lift,” McCarron said. “And we just feel when people are under that threshold of $27,000 and they could receive a little bit of relief from their tax bill, it helps to go towards food or whatever.”