Town must lower taxes, control spending
© Eric Sparling – Amherst Daily News
Wayne Bishop talks to Leona Brown during a visit to Northumberland Hall on Wednesday.
AMHERST – Wayne Bishop says it’s time for change in Amherst.
The former town councillor and retired accountant is running for mayor, and while he believes the town is making progress in some areas he says it’s failing in others.
“I think the town is deteriorating. We are losing businesses downtown and have to make some major improvements,” Bishop said.
Bishop said there are nine areas he would like to see the town place its energies over the next four years. The most significant priority to him is controlling the tax rate.
A former accountant, Bishop said high commercial taxes are preventing business and industry from locating in Amherst. He said lowering the commercial tax rate to a more reasonable level should provide stimulus to creating jobs in all areas of town including the downtown and the industrial park.
“We need to maintain the current businesses in town and would like to see 100 jobs created each year in the industrial park,” he said. “To do that we would have to work closely with other levels of government.”
Bishop said he’s a firm believer in zero-based budgeting for town finances
“We have to control our costs. With a zero-based budget you start from zero in every department and work your way up,” Bishop said. “You can control your tax rate by controlling your spending. Instead of doing 20 streets, you can do so many this year and so many next year.”
Bishop said it’s OK to have small surpluses, but if they are too frequent or too high it could be an indication that taxes are too high.
Since he’s retired, Bishop says he can commit 100 per cent of his time to leading the town. He said the current mayor has a full-time job.
“Nothing against the current mayor, but he has a full-time job. I’m retired and can spend a lot more time as mayor than the current mayor can. I would put a 100 per cent effort into having the town grow and prosper.”
As voters prepare to head to the polls on Saturday, Bishop feels there are several major issues they will be thinking about. He said the redevelopment of the Dominion Public Building is a major issue among voters because they don’t know the true cost of the project.
“We have to promote business. That’s our top priority. We can become a festival town and promote the town for holding high quality festivals and events,” Bishop said, referring to the recent Fibre Arts Festival as well as the Four Fathers Festival and the Rockabilly Festival that was held in September.
The candidate also wants the town to make better use of Victoria Square by holding year-round events there. One idea he has is to hold a New Year’s Eve party in the square with music and possibly fireworks.
By promoting the town as a festivals and events centre, Bishop said more visitors will come into the community.
Bishop is not sure amalgamation is the answer to inter-municipal relations, but he is a proponent of more co-operation among the county’s five municipalities. He is also an advocate for better relations with both the province and the federal government.
“Amalgamation is not the answer, it didn’t work in Halifax and Cape Breton, but we should begin sharing more services,” Bishop said.