Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons says fees have to go up for residents in 2024 to combat rising city costs. (Colleen Connors/CBC)
The City of Corner Brook has unveiled its 2024 budget, which is raising fees to try to maintain and improve services.
The city budget is about $40 million, an almost five per cent increase from last year. Much of the increase is due to rising costs of water treatment and water usage that's high for a city the size of Corner Brook, said Mayor Jim Parsons on Tuesday.
The city dropped its residential tax rate from 8.25 to eight mills — which Parsons said will offset some of the increases — but housing assessments have also risen.
To offset rising costs, the city is increasing its water levy by $50 for residents — from $500 to $550 — and $60 for commercial properties — from $690 to $750.
"We want to make sure that we're not overburdening our residents, but of course we faced increased costs as well. So we're trying to just keep it as minimal as possible and be efficient with the resources we have," Parsons said.
"A lot of those chemicals have gone up 30 or 40 per cent for the last two years, and that will continue. And we have energy costs associated with our water treatment plant."
Commercial property tax rates are unchanged.
The 2024 budget includes money for an expansion of the city's trail system, a new storm sewer for the Deep Gulch River, a new asphalt reclaimer, a new snowblower, a new Mill Whistle Train and work to make the intersection leading to the Corner Brook Plaza safer.
The train is a popular tourist attraction operated by the city in the summertime, taking passengers on a 15-minute drive around the downtown. Parsons says the train more than pays for itself.
Most can't afford an increase, says resident
One resident says the city isn't doing enough to justify its taxes and fees.
Sarah Parsons says she and her neighbours on Georgetown Road have asked the city to pave the road for close to a decade. It was scheduled to be paved in 2023, but hasn't happened.
"It is an issue as a mother of two children here. It's a safety concern as well," she said. She pays close to $3,500 in property tax, she said, and many residents can't afford an increase.
"It's a matter of deciding between fresh food or going to get takeout because that's cheaper sometimes," she said. "Recreational activities for my children is very expensive. That might mean my children don't get to do any recreational activities because I have to pay more in my property taxes."
Sarah Parsons lives on Georgetown Road in the Curling neighbourhood of Corner Brook. The road isn't paved, and she has concerns about rising fees for property owners. (Colleen Connors/CBC)
Jim Parsons said taxes are lower in Corner Brook than in other places.
"Most people will pay more for their Internet and their telephone and their television then they pay for property tax," he said.
"That has to cover things like our water and sewer, roads and recreational things and things [like] business, economic development activities, all these things. And that's for the same cost that you have your, you know, Netflix for, really."
Sarah Parsons took exception to the mayor's comment.
"To compare property tax to a streaming service that's $50 a month as opposed to $3,000 a year is a way around the question."