Published on May 01, 2013
Amherst Mayor Robert Small looks over a copy of the town’s $16.4-million budget that will see both residential and non-residential (commercial) tax rates reduced and a $3.3-million capital plan completed.
Darrell Cole – Amherst Daily News
Published on May 01, 2013
Amherst delivered its $16.4-million budget on Wednesday.
Amherst passes $16.4-million budget
AMHERST – Amherst has brought down a $16.4-million budget that will see taxpayers saving just over $300,000 while continuing with a number of capital projects over the next year.
“I’m excited with this budget. We are going to be able to accomplish the things we set out to do in strategic planning and there’s plenty of work that will be done around town,” Mayor Robert Small said during a special council meeting on Wednesday. “Also, we were able to listen to what our taxpayers have been telling us and have lowered the tax rate.”
The residential tax rate is dropping by three cents to $1.63 per $100 taxable assessment while the non-residential tax rate (commercial) is dropping by 10 cents to $4.45 per $100 assessment.
The mayor said property taxes were a hot issue during last October’s municipal election campaign and the new council responded by asking staff to find efficiencies and opportunities for budget savings where they could.
Along with lowering property taxes, council will reduce the deed transfer tax in the coming month or so to one per cent from 1.25 per cent and the uniform charge for solid waste is down $4 to $170.
Town CAO Greg Herrett said residential capped assessment grew by 2.5 per cent this year, representing an $8.7-milion assessment increase - $39,000 in additional residential tax revenue. Commercial assessment was up 1.8 per cent, but resulted in a loss of $24,700 due to a rate decrease. Phasing out the business occupancy tax cost $2.4 million in lost assessment, or $108,754 in lost revenue.
Herrett said overall expenditures are down 1.5 per cent.
“This is the first year in a long time where expenditures have decreased,” Herrett said. “Wages and benefits are projected to rise by three per cent as cost of living increases for both unionized and non-unionized staff members take effect.”
Herrett said transfers to provincial agencies and departments for housing, education, corrections, assessment services and libraries continues to be expensive, costing about $2 million, or 40 cents on the tax rate.
“There are many other offsetting increases and decreases to many revenue and expenditure lines. With rising costs, relatively flat assessments and rate decreases, this year was a challenging one for sure,” Herrett said.
The town also plans to spend $3.3 million on capital projects during the year, including paving up to 10 streets, two curbs and four sidewalks. Among the new sidewalks is on Croft Street from Beacon Street to Dickey Brook by the little league complex and on Industrial Park Drive from South Albion Street to Southgate Village.
Three storm sewers will be replaced, including the Dickey Brook culvert on Academy Street. As well, the town is upgrading several pieces of its sanitary sewer system and is spending just over $123,000 in recreation to replace a condenser at the Amherst Stadium and replace playground equipment and the rubberized services at the Beacon Street park.
The town is also buying new communications equipment for the fire department and replacing several police vehicles.
The budget also includes funding to implement the town’s strategic priorities, including purchasing and installing two new highway signs, an equipment lending program, supporting the Blueberry Harvest Festival and a downtown street party and continued work on the youth, seniors and industrial park strategies as well as its first Idea Day.
Only $743,013 of the capital budget is coming from borrowing and that’s all tied to the sewage treatment plant. The remainder is coming from capital from reserves, transfers from reserves, grants, the federal gas tax and capital reserve carryovers.
Deputy Mayor George Baker said the budget is good for the town, and respects what taxpayers have asked for, but he doesn’t want the town to get back into a situation where it has to borrow money for capital projects.
“I think the town is good shape, but I’m concerned with the loss of $300,000 in lost tax revenue because I don’t want to see us get back in a situation where we have to borrow,” Baker said. “We’ve done a very good job of paying for stuff as it comes up. I’d hate to see us have to start borrowing money to do that. It’s good to have some money in the pot.”