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Residents facing 3.2% tax hike

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After many months of deliberating and crunching numbers, town council will wrap up the 2008 budget in the coming weeks.

On Monday night, council voted unanimously in favour of a tax scenario that will see residential tax rates jump 3.19 percent, or $57.16 per $100,000 of assessment.

Multi-residential will go up 3.496 percent (or $140.57 per $100,000 of assessment) while commercial will increase 1.071 percent (or $58.92 per $100,000 of assessment).

Industrial rates will go up 1.376 percent ($66.51 per $100,000 of assessment) while large industrial would go up 1.377 percent ($121.28 per $100,000 of assessment).

Pipeline will increase 2.422 percent ($144.17 per $100,000 of assessment).

The tax scenario covers the town’s operating budget shortfall of $178,710, as well as $810,000 in capital long-term debt to be paid back over a 10-year period (which, with principal and interest, amounts to $103,095 per year for 10 years).

These capital projects range from a new chiller for the ’52 Canadians Arena to a new pumper truck for the fire department.

The budget will be the subject of a public meeting in coming weeks, at which time council will vote on the bylaw to finalize it.

In an interview yesterday, Mayor Roy Avis said this has been a tough budget year.

“Council spent a lot of time on it and they came up with some very good scenarios and they picked the best one,” he remarked. “It was a unanimous decision of council to go that way.”

Mayor Avis noted a good portion of the increase in operating costs is due to changes in town labour contracts while necessary capital expenditures, like a new pumper truck, make up that side of the budget.

< *c>Library funding

The budget also includes a $100,000 capital contribution to the library building reserve fund, but does not otherwise include funding for the new library project within the 2008 budget year (a total of $250,000 is being taken from the reserves to pay for architect work and project manager fees).

The rationale is that at this stage, it does not seem likely any library construction will begin until early 2009 as library plans have not been finalized and the tender process has not yet begun.

As such, council can hold off on committing funds within this year’s budget and wait until they have a better idea as to how much the project eventually will end up costing.

As it stands now, it is not known how much the library, in its current design will cost, whether the library plans must be downsized to further reduce costs, or whether the library board will pursue a joint project with the public school board.

The $100,000 contribution to library reserves this year will help with whatever the town ends up putting towards the library next year.

In related news, council also passed a motion that the town’s contribution to construct a new library will not exceed $592,380 plus the value of a building permit.

This total includes $140,000 in reserves plus $452,000 council previously had committed towards a new library at the start of the 2008 budget discussions.

Several councillors noted it was important to come up with an amount as soon as possible to let the library board know how much the town would be willing to contribute, so it could move forward with its planning.

For example, the library board was expected to meet with the school board today to further discuss a possible project done in conjunction with the new Robert Moore School here.

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