But residents still paying more because of rising assessment
AMHERST - While the residential tax rate is going down two cents, Amherst residents will still be paying higher taxes thanks to an 11 per cent increase in property assessments.
Amherst town council brought down its 2007-08 budget last night, lowering the residential tax rate to $1.65 per $100 taxable assessment while the commercial tax rate is growing by 19 cents from $3.68 per $100 assessment to $3.87 to offset the phasing out of the business occupancy tax.
"There can be no doubt that even though the residential tax rate is decreasing the tax burden is increasing," Coun. Dale Fawthrop said in bringing down the town's $14-million budget. "The fact of the matter is that like all businesses our costs increase as well. While we seek to minimize the impact on our taxpayers, there remains a cost increase."
For the owner of a $100,000 home consuming an average amount of water, taxes will increase by $147, or 6.6 per cent, this year.
Reducing the residential tax rate was brought about by dropping the three-cent charge for debt reduction. One cent of that is being used to fund the addition of a staff sergeant's position at the police department.
While the commercial tax rate is increasing, Fawthrop said most business owners won't see a significant increase in what they pay the town.
"While some will payless and some will pay more, the effective tax rate remains the same," Fawthrop said.
The town is increasing the sewer user rate by two per cent while the sewer capital charge is being maintained at $23. Decisions on the $150 solid waste uniform charge and DARS area rates will be made later.
This year's budget also includes a five-year capital plan worth $20 million. While council only approved the first year of that plan last night, valued at $3.8 million, projects over the following four years have been identified.
"The projects included in years two to five have been identified for further staff work and development and may be brought forward for final approval in future years," Fawthrop said.
The second phase of the stadium renovations is the largest capital project this year at $1.7 million.
The town is funding $530,000 worth of this year's capital projects from operations, compared $232,000 last year.
"This does not mean we are spending more dollars on the capital program, rather that we are funding less of the capital program from borrowing," Fawthrop said. "With the exception of the stadium project, any new debt being taken on is limited to the water utility and the sewer department, which are both funded from user fees and not the tax rate."
Fawthrop said the town's expenditures are projected to rise by 4.4 per cent, or $593,000, this year. Wages and benefits increased by $431,000, or 7.7 per cent. Most of the increases can be attributed to scheduled increases in unionized wages, adjustments to non-union salaries resulting from a job evaluation review, the addition of the staff sergeant's position and cost of living increases.
The town is also facing an increase in provincial transfers for education, housing, assessment and corrections of about $73,000. This increase has been partially offset by a $55,000 increase in provincial equalization funding, but Amherst's provincial responsibilities still represent 19 cents on the tax rate.