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Amherst continuing to be financially responsible with current budget, priorities and tax rates

Amherst Deputy Mayor Sheila Christie
Amherst Deputy Mayor Sheila Christie - Contributed

Hello everyone,

Council had a very busy May, with finalization of budgets, setting tax rates, contract negotiations talks, and presentations. 

This month saw an informative presentation from Solar Nova Scotia. This organization works with governments at all levels to help create policies supporting adoption and awareness of the environmental benefits of solar energy.

Chief Ian Naylor, as the Traffic Authority for the Town of Amherst presented a very in-depth crosswalk study for council’s review. This study had several suggestions of places that crosswalks are no longer valid, (as the origin of their intended purpose is no longer there), also suggestions of some additions, and removal of some where there are too many crosswalks within a short distance due the provincial guidelines. Council will be studying these suggestions, and discussing it at the June meeting.

The town released the report on the Poverty Lives Here Forum and the results have been shared with the participants and can be found on the town’s website. As a strategic priority for this Council, this is information that is very valuable and needed.

The Report on Financial Condition Indicators was released by the Department of Municipal Affairs, and Amherst continues hold very strong with 11 of the 13 indicators at green, one at yellow and one at red.  The one1 yellow indicator was due to staff vacancies that have now been filled. The red indicator was based on how it relates to combined reserves. The town follows a strategy of planning for capital investments on a long term bases from capital reserves, rather than from borrowing when feasible. This practice is intentional and allows for updated infrastructure at minimal cost to the town.

The budgets and new tax rates have been set. This budget focused on priorities like poverty reduction and community support.  With only a minimal increase of a half cent, on the Community Support Area Rate.  This increase will be able to be reinvested this back into the community.

The tax reduction policy has been amended to $450, and an increase in the deed transfer tax of a quarter of a per cent. This deed transfer increase is also ear-marked for further poverty reduction strategies.

One of the priorities of council is to conduct a review of policing services and costs for the town.  This extremely important function is also one of the main expenses to the town. This expense has gone without internal review for many years. Council decided that in order to be responsible that we needed to understand and appropriately review these costs. 

There will be a working group working on Phase one of the project and reporting findings to council this fall. 

The other major news is that council has approved the Active Transportation Plan for the town.  This pan will be implemented over several years, but will help to make Amherst see its goal to be the most active vibrant community in Canada. This new plan will attract people and businesses to settle here, help to retain our youth, promote healthier lifestyles for our residents and attract tourists. The plan will connect walking, biking and running trails, provide safe bike lanes, and provide an active environment and lifestyle for all.

The plan in its detail can be found on the Town of Amherst website.

Sheila Christie is the deputy mayor of Amherst. Her column appears monthly in the Amherst News.

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