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Kings County council holds line on tax rates in approving 2018-2019 budgets

KENTVILLE, NS - Kings County council has held the line on property tax rates for the coming fiscal year while maintaining current service levels.

Council ratified the operating and capital budgets for the 2018-2019 fiscal year and set the residential, resource and commercial tax rates at a special meeting on May 15. The operating budget totals $46,862,100 while the capital and project budget totals $4,620,000. Council also approved a five-year capital plan.

The tax rate for residential and resource properties has been held at $0.853 per $100 of assessed property value while the commercial rate has been held at $2.287 per $100 of assessment.

Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart said that, overall, the municipality is financially healthy and council is “averse to increasing the tax burden unless absolutely necessary.” There was some discussion around increasing the tax rate by one cent but that “was put off for consideration for another year.”

Depending on the assessed value of a property, this would have resulted in an increase of between $10 and $17 a year to individual ratepayers and generated in excess of $300,000 in additional revenue for the municipality.

“We’ll be in a better position in a subsequent year to determine our needs in that regard,” Muttart said.

He said county council has held the current tax rates for 10 years. The same rate will generate more revenue year-over-year if the assessed values of properties increases. However, as pointed out by Muttart, the percentage by which assessed values increase varies quite dramatically year to year.

In most cases, assessed values haven’t gone up much during the latest assessment period. The overall tax revenue increase from assessment growth for 2018-2019 will be $692,300, opposed to $866,800 for 2017-2018. This means that the tax revenue base that the municipality operates on will not increase as significantly as it has in the past. Muttart said this constrains the municipality’s ability to respond in some situations.

Sewer charges have been set at $490 for single-family dwellings and like units and at $147 for vacant lots.

Council has approved the total budget for Major Community Initiatives grants in the amount of $322,000 as part of the operating budget. Muttart said the overall amount requested for grants this year exceeds the budget “by a great margin.” Council has deferred decisions on grant awards to a later date.

“Each of them has to be examined on its merits and some will be selected, perhaps not all, and even amongst some of the ones selected there may have to be some proportional spending as opposed to full grants,” the mayor said.

Muttart said the municipality submits a budget under a cost sharing formula with the province for the resurfacing of municipally owned subdivision or J-Class roads. Quite often, the province is not prepared to meet the suggested expenditure level, so the municipality must tackle fewer streets in a given year. Council has budgeted $300,000 for J-Class paving projects to match the provincial contribution for 2018-2019.

Muttart said they would like to get into a program where the municipality would get a written undertaking from the province to continue its present level of annual funding to the municipality for J-Class roads. That letter could be used to leverage borrowing so that the number of roads resurfaced on an annual basis could increase.

“In other words, we wouldn’t front-end load it, we’d get them done faster,” Muttart said.

However, the province isn’t willing to do that at the present time. The mayor said they appreciate the financial difficulty the province is facing and pointed out that the County of Kings has more J-Class roads in terms of kilometres than any other municipality. Under the current agreement, once these streets have been resurfaced, the province will assume responsibility.

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