ANTIGONISH COUNTY: The Municipality of the County of Antigonish held the line on municipal taxes for the 13th straight year.

Council unanimously approved their 2021-22 municipal operating and capital budget during a special virtual council meeting on June 2.

The residential rate remains $0.88/$100 of assessment, which is among the lowest rates in the province, while their commercial rate has been reduced by two cents and is now $1.44. It also remains the lowest commercial rate in Nova Scotia.

“This is the thirteenth consecutive year the tax rate has not increased in Antigonish County,” Warden Owen McCarron told reporters. “Council felt that in recognition on a tough year businesses have faced, we felt we had the capacity to make a slight reduction of two cents.”

The warden indicated the slight drop was deemed be appropriate by council as they recognize businesses have had their challenges over the past 16 months with COVID, and it really won’t have an impact on their bottom line.

“We’re trying to send a message to the business community that Antigonish County is open for businesses and we value that business,” McCarron said. “We’ve finished our year strong and because of the safe restart money that come in, which is federal money, that came into us back in November, we ended up with a surplus in the county after the fiscal year ended.”

Some of the major expenses included in this year’s $16,239,000 budget are a mandatory $3,826,707 contribution to the Strait Regional Centre for Education which accounts for 23.6 per cent of the budget.

The county also has a mandatory $3,570,839 contribution to protective services that covers the RCMP, fire protection rates, the Emergency Measures Organization, and fire departments, accounting for 22 per cent of the budget.

McCarron explained their $3,371,000 capital plan is fairly significant and includes projects such as; replacing a waterline along Old South River Road and South River Road from the town boundary to the intersection of Williams Point Road; repaving Appleseed Drive and Townsend Street, which is one of the most travelled municipal roads; upgrades to the Antigonish County Courthouse on Main Street; infrastructure to improve the Equipment Loan Program; accessibility upgrades to municipal facilities; and a 290 panel ground-mounted solar PV system at the municipal office.

Additionally, the Low Income Property Tax Exemption has been maintained so that households earning less than $30,000 can receive up to $200 toward their property taxes and the county has also issued $480,400 in grants to support local community groups and projects.

“We’re continuing to watch for opportunities to do things and one of the things we do when we’re looking at capital projects, we try to get them out the door early so we get a good price with early tendering,” he said. “We continue to be mindful of those types of things, I think we’ve been fortunate, our revenues have remained relatively solid through the past year and a bit.”

McCarron suggested like all municipalities, Antigonish County is aware of the potential challenges associated with COVID-19 and has adjusted its financial forecast accordingly. Steps have been taken to invest in the community and not pass shortfalls on to rate payers, he added.