Tax rates in this town are going down, although the bottom line on the bills of property owners may not see huge changes.
Council approved a budget of $2,379,365.88 for the 2014-15 fiscal year at its May 27 monthly session, along with reduced tax rates and new area rate fees applied to all accounts for fire protection and street lighting services.
The new residential tax rate is $1.80 per $100 of assessment, down 19 cents from last year, while the commercial rate is now $3.99, down 14 cents from last year. As for the area rate fees, fire protection will cost $125 for each residential account and $150 for each commercial account, while street lighting will cost $50 per residential account and $55 per commercial account.
“This allows for a significant reduction in both the residential and commercial tax rates, and a consistent billing to all accounts for these services,” said Mayor Lois Smith. “The general revenue collected remains similar to past years, and should keep the Town of Parrsboro’s average residential tax bill as one of the five lowest among towns in Nova Scotia.”
While admitting the rate reduction will not spell the kind of relief that might be indicated with a quick look at the numbers, the mayor said the change should provide a “modest tax break” to new home constructions and businesses in the town, helping to encourage growth.
The budget also allows for increased spending on economic development, with particular focus on the initiatives of special projects co-ordinator Taylor Redmond, as well as attendance at major trade shows.
Meanwhile, capital projects for 2014-15 will include complete renovation of the tennis court, the launch of a community bicycle program, and the purchase of equipment for the new community fitness centre joint project with Parrsboro Regional High School.
Additionally, this year’s budget sees the establishment of transfers to capital reserves in anticipation of the future purchase of a new fire truck.
Resident Mary McPhee, among the small crowd in the audience, was critical of the tax reform. She took particular issue with it being labeled as a growth initiative, when she believes the burden facing taxpayers has more to do with their assessments than with their rates.
“This is hugely discouraging, and if we’re going to talk tax reform, then it has to go deeper than that,” she said. “It’s great to see a decrease on the rate, but when assessments continue to climb… it’s not doing much for the individual homeowners.”
Compared to other towns in Nova Scotia, taxes in Parrsboro are actually low, according to CAO Ray Hickey.
“Our taxes per unit are really low – about $1,000 in tax per dwelling in Parrsboro, which is very much on the low side, about 2.7 per cent of (taxpayers’) income,” he explained. “As a whole, people are paying less, but the goal is to make sure they are paying equally.”