Tax rates in the Municipality of the County of Antigonish remain unchanged, after council approved its 2019-20 budget at their May 21 meeting.
Warden Owen McCarron noted this year marks the 11th consecutive one that residential property taxes have remained the same, and the county still boosts the lowest commercial property tax rates in the province.
• The residential rate will remain at $0.88 in per $100 of assessment.
• The commercial rate will remain at $1.46 per $100 of assessment.
• Sewer rates (both municipal and residential) will remain at $316.29 per unit
The operating and capital budget – approximately $15.3 million— was unanimously approved by council. The budget includes no changes to sewer rates.
McCarron noted staff and council “kept a close eye on expenditures this year,” and that although fuel costs have increased, there were savings on salt and winter works areas of the budget.
“When you’re running a $15 million-dollar budget and within a few thousand dollars at the end, it’s pretty good. We are fortunate to be able to do infrastructure and pay down debt, while offering services and programs,” McCarron said.
McCarron stressed the importance of the county’s record for keeping taxes on the level, saying, “It’s an attraction. If we keep good rates, it shows we’re open for people and it’s affordable.”
McCarron noted that has paid off, with the growth of commercial developments along the highway, such as Nova Landing and East Gate Ridge.
A total of $2.2 million in capital investments has been allotted to a number of initiatives, including improvements to sewer systems in lower South River, Heatherton and Pomquet, and a permanent facility for household hazardous waste at the Beech Hill solid waste management facility.
Major expenses entailed in the 2019-20 budget include mandatory contributions to education, which makes up 23.2 per cent of the budget, and protective services, accounting for 21.2 per cent.
For joint initiatives with the Town of Antigonish, the county invested $425,000. This money will go toward a number of projects, such as the ‘sandlot’ accessible ball field, the All Wheels Skate Park, Antigonish Community Transit, the Antigonish Arena, the People’s Place Library and the Antigonish Heritage Museum.
The county will also be honouring its annual commitment to a total of $500,000 to The Time Is Now, a campaign in support of the St. Martha’s Hospital Foundation. An amount of $200,000 will go toward the Antigonish Farmer’s Market.
The county will be supporting local community groups with $460,000 in the coming fiscal year.
The county will also be contributing $150,000, if matched on the provincial and federal level, to develop better cellular connectivity in Antigonish County.
On the operating side, $994,952 has been set aside for paying debt charges and $3,551,460 has been allotted to education. Environmental health has been provided $2,377,176 for matters like sewer, solid waste collection and operation of the Beech Hill Transfer Station.
In addition to taxes staying the same, the county has also expanded its income assistance threshold. At its May 21 council approved a motion to increase the eligible income amount for assistance from $25,000 per year to $27,000 and increase the break eligible applicants could get on their tax bill, from $125 to $150.
“There are a lot of people on marginal income and it’s obviously important to give them a little lift,” McCarron said.