County budget a ‘good deal:’ small tax rate increase, additional services

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BY KIRK STARRATT

Kings County Register

With a small increase to the residential tax rate, some new initiatives and no service reductions, Warden Fred Whalen calls Kings County’s 2009/ 2010 operating and capital budgets an overall good deal for residents.

Council approved the $37.7 million operating budget and the $12.1 million capital budget May 5. The overall budget resulted in a 1.9 cent increase to the residential rate, which now stands at 85.3 cents per $100 of assessed property value: for a home assessed at $100,000, taxes will increase by $19.

Council’s committee of the whole received public input and debated the operating and capital budgets at five public meetings.

The approved budgets implement a number of new initiatives: funding for youth recreation, a full year of funding for two additional police officers, financial contributions to the Valley Regional Hospital Foundation’s hospice capital campaign, financial contributions to the Fundy Inter-Church Food Bank’s permanent facility, significant acceleration of infrastructure renewal and funding for new sidewalks to enhance active transportation and community safety.

Corporate services director Bill McKennan, who presented a staff report on the budget to councillors, said council and staff have been successful in leveraging funding from federal and provincial programs to respond to the current economic climate. The county has obtained $4.6 million to support infrastructure upgrades to help protect the health and safety of residents and boost the local economy.

Warden Fred Whalen thanked staff for tremendous work and patience in developing the budget documents.

Following the council session, Warden said the combination of assessment growth and the 1.9-cent increase to the tax rate was enough to meet the municipality’s needs. “Most people don’t like a tax increase but it’s a reality. That’s what it took,” Whalen said, pointing out Kings County isn’t that bad off compared to other municipalities: Colchester had a five-cent increase and the municipality doubled its deed transfer tax. Kings has never had a deed transfer tax.

Initiatives being funded at least two-thirds by the provincial and federal governments include upgrades to the regional sewer plant worth $2,774,700; active transportation sidewalks valued at $2,170,000, municipal complex energy efficiency projects, valued at $890,000; and upgrades to sewer pumping stations, valued at $1,136,000. These four initiatives total $6,971,000, of which about $4,647,400 is federal and provincial funding.

Councillor Dick Killam made a motion to have staff report back on unfunded capital needs within the municipality, including those of community groups. The motion carried.

Commercial rate remains even

There is no general increase in the commercial tax rate. However, to accommodate the last year of the phase out of the Business Occupancy Tax (BOT), the commercial rate is being adjusted by 12.3 cents per $100 of commercial assessment. There is an offsetting reduction in BOT billing for many commercial ratepayers.

Organizations: Valley Regional Hospital Foundation, Fundy Inter-Church Food Bank

Geographic location: Kings

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