PORT HAWKESBURY: Port Hawkesbury Town Council has unanimously approved a budget for 2018-2019 that will leave tax rates unchanged.

At the Town of Port Hawkesbury’s regular monthly council meeting on June 5, members voted to approve a balanced $7.8 million budget that will maintain the residential tax rate at $1.80 per $100 of assessment and the commercial rate at $4.38 per $100 of assessment.

Following the meeting, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said it is important to have a balanced budget and a tax rate that is affordable for people who would like to live and do business in the town.

“I think it sends a message that we’re able to maintain our tax rate and still invest $7.8 million into a capital plan that shows a lot of confidence with regard to our future here in the Town of Port Hawkesbury,” she said.

Erin MacEachen, director of finance for the town, says this year’s capital budget includes $7.2 million in projects that are either ongoing or have been approved through previous capital budgets with an additional $600,000 added this year.

Investments in water and wastewater include the Pitt and Napean utility reconstruction project and the replacement of an air saturation tank at the town’s water treatment plant. The budget also includes money for the resurfacing of a portion of Reynolds Street, sidewalk improvements, active transportation facilities, signage, street amenities, lighting and parkettes. Capital funding for recreation and facilities will go toward a bicycle pump track, lighting and protective netting for the arena, tennis court upgrades, and renovations to the customs building on Granville Street.

This year’s final budget was supported by all councillors with some praising the process, which included extensive consultation between town staff and council beginning in early March.

“We wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable with the messaging moving forward and with the decisions that had been made throughout the process,” said Erin MacEachen, director of finance for the town during last week’s council meeting.

During her presentation to council, MacEachen noted that over the past six years, residential assessments have remained stagnate while commercial assessments have declined by seven per cent, which equates to a loss of roughly $180,000 in tax revenue.

“So using our current tax rates, we have $180,000 less than we did in 2013 to provide basically the same level of service that we were providing at that time,” MacEachen said. “We’ve managed through that, but it’s definitely been a challenge. I think that’s why this municipality is focusing our investment strategically on areas that are going to help this community grow because this negative trend is something that’s not going to be sustainable long term while keeping and maintaining the same levels of service.”