ANTIGONISH: The mayor for the Town of Antigonish says council didn’t take its decision lightly in regards to a one cent increase to tax rates, especially after acknowledging the difficult year both residents and businesses have had because of the pandemic.
Council approved its 2021-22 municipal operating and capital budget during a special virtual council meeting on June 22.
“For the past three years, the town has maintained the lowest residential tax rate compared to towns of similar sizes in Nova Scotia,” Laurie Boucher told The Reporter. “If we’re going to continue to fund very worthy causes, like doctor recruitment, affordable housing, and the hospital, which is over and above our municipal responsibilities, we’re going to have to do so without compromising our municipal duties, therefore the addition of the extra cent was warranted.”
Council’s approval comes with a one cent tax rate increase for residential and commercial properties. The residential rate increases to $1.10 per $100 of assessment, while their commercial rate has also been raised to $2.62.
Some of the major expenses included in this year’s $11,552,234 budget are a mandatory $1,491,809 contribution to the Strait Regional Centre for Education, which accounts for 14 per cent of the budget.
The town also has a mandatory $2,614,322 contribution to protective services that covers, policing, fire, by-law, and corrections, accounting for 23 per cent of the budget.
Boucher indicated with the town’s continued success with Alternative Energy Resource Energy Authority (AREA) and its 63 per cent ownership in the Ellershouse Windfarm has resulted in a $785,000 contribution to the town’s $2,822,300 capital project plan.
“The priorities set through this budget are consistent with the town’s Municipal Planning Strategy and focus on improving our community’s social, fiscal, and environmental well being,” she said. “Along with these ambitious projects, the town remains committed to furthering our strong relationships with the Municipality of the County of Antigonish, Paqtnkek First Nation and StFX for the betterment of our community.”
Work is being undertaken through six bundled projects which include $484,000 in paving, $256,000 in sidewalk repairs, as well as an additional $315,000 for bridge work.
The mayor highlighted the town’s community development department will be conducting $784,800 of the capital work that includes replacing the overhead lighting at the Regional Sports Field, crosswalk improvements, initiating the formal design phase of the Active Transportation corridor, replacement of the town fire department’s bay doors, and further improvements to the dog park and Sandlot Baseball Field.
Other key initiatives, Boucher keyed-in on set through the town’s general operations for the upcoming year include destination development planning for Antigonish’s tourism sector, investments in the town’s beautification and placemaking initiatives, the first phase of a parks and recreation master plan, a downtown parking study, and the completion of the accessibility action plan.
“When you come into Antigonish on James Street, we’ve put money into beautification of that area, something that wasn’t done before. One of the unpredictable things as well, we had to replace all of the lights at the sports field which was a substantial amount of money, she said. “One of the goods things that came out of this as well is a tourism strategy started between the partnership of the town and the county teams and the chamber; that’s exciting.”
The mayor suggested we’re going to feel the repercussions from the global pandemic for a few years down the road.
“It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s going to take two to three years before we start to see ourselves pick up again,” Boucher said. “We have a great community, we’ve come out pretty good on the other end of this and we’re looking forward to make sure we do come out of this.”