Port Hawkesbury officials hope to table budget next month

PORT HAWKESBURY: The Mayor of Port Hawkesbury says town officials are close to finalizing the 2019-20 budget.

Officials with the town began their budget deliberations prior to their previous fiscal year ending at the end of March.

After May’s regular council meeting on April 7, Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, the town’s mayor, said there are always things to talk about and all kinds of considerations that always result in things popping up.

“I think it’s just trying to practice as much as possible some fiscal and prudent managing of our upcoming year,” she said. “Of course there are always wish lists on behalf of staff and there are wish lists on behalf of our councillors, it’s about what we can afford and how we prioritize them.”

Chisholm-Beaton indicated they’ll probably have two or three more meetings to figure out what exactly they want to prioritize to grow the town and position it for prosperity.

“At this point, I would not be an advocate of putting up the taxes, but again there are pressures and priorities that we have to look at,” she explained. “I can’t confirm or deny we’ll keep the taxes the same, but personally, that would be my preference.”

Part of the town’s budget deliberations is the decision to either increase their stipends to give themselves a pay raise or take a personal hit, as a way to off-set tax changes on one-third of the total salaries of elected officials.

Their colleagues in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough quickly voted against an increase to their stipends, while the Town and County of Antigonish and the Municipality of the County of Richmond, made decisions to increase. Inverness County will make their final decision during their budget deliberations as well.

“During the time that discussion occurred in late 2018, we weren’t prepared to make a decision then because we had a vacant council seat at the time,” Chisholm-Beaton said. “We do want to make a decision that’s going to have a permanent, long-term implication on our budget.”

The mayor added it’s important they work within their means as a town and try to stay at a place where they can keep things affordable for taxpayers.