ARICHAT: Richmond municipal councillors have finally passed their 2017-18 municipal budget, six weeks after a series of false starts resulted in a defeat for the county’s fiscal plan at the municipality’s annual general meeting in early July.

Councillors attending a special council meeting on August 16 at the Richmond Municipal Building in Arichat voted in favour of a budget that will retain the same tax rates from the 2016-17 fiscal year. As a result, the residential rate will remain at 80 cents per $100 of assessment, while the commercial rate holds steady at $2.80 per $100 of assessment.

The new approach to Richmond’s tax rates is a reversal from the tax reductions Warden Brian Marchand had hoped to launch at the July 4 council meeting, which saw councillor Gilbert Boucher fail to find a seconder for a motion implementing a three-cent cut in each of the residential and commercial tax rates, resulting in its immediate defeat.

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Later in the same meeting, prior to the arrival of councillor James Goyetche, a vote on the budget itself resulted in a 2-2 tie, which renders a motion defeated according to the rules set out in Nova Scotia’s Municipal Government Act. This budget document, prepared by the county’s Director of Finance, Jason Martell, proposed the same residential and commercial and tax rates levied in Richmond County during the previous fiscal year.

In the meantime, according to interim Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Louis Digout, the new budget document allocates the same distribution of funds as its early-July predecessor, including the monies to be distributed to successful recipients of municipal grants.

“Council had discussed about perhaps doing a little more vetting of the [grant] applications as they came in, but essentially, the process hasn’t changed – you make application, it’s reviewed by staff, and considered and decided on by council,” Digout explained.

Municipal spending decisions included in the newly-approved budget document include an increase in Richmond’s annual contribution to Strait Area Transit (SAT) from $45,000 to $100,000, a payment of $10,000 to the fundraising campaign launched last fall by the St. Martha’s Hospital Foundation, and $5,000 to each of the Strait-Richmond Health Care Foundation and the St. Anne’s Community and Nursing Care Centre Auxiliary Foundation.