Happy Valley-Goose Bay budget keeps service status quo but residential property owners see tax increase

While the winding down of the Muskrat Falls project is presenting challenges for the Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, its council says the 2020 budget will allow the town to maintain the status quo for services and its personnel.

But council says it requires an increase of 0.5 mills to the town's residential tax rate to keep it balanced. 

"This is the first increase in our mill rate in over a decade," said Coun. Michelle Baikie, chair of the finance administration policy committee. 

Baikie called the $15.2-million proposed budget, which still requires approval from the provincial government, "fiscally conservative."

The raise in the mill rate, which is now set at 6.75 mills, claws back some of the reduction that was introduced in the 2016 budget when the previous council reduced property taxes by over 20 per cent.

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Deputy Mayor Bert Pomeroy said that means that someone whose property is assessed at $300,000 will pay about $150 more per year. 

"It's a slight increase. It's not something anybody wants to do but we think it's the best thing that we can do right now to maintain operations and improve services for our residents," Pomeroy said.

"Cutting services [or] reducing staff was not anything that was in the cards for us."

The town will actually be adding some jobs as it included three new heavy equipment operator positions to help with snow clearing and two seasonal labourers will be added to the water and sewer department. 

Business and commercial property tax, as well as water and sewer rates, remain the same and tax relief for low income property owners will remain in place. 

Other highlights

Council will also be spending more than $6 million on roads. In particular, $4.2 million will go toward extending Kelland Drive to the end of Corte Real Road. 

"Over the last number of years we have seen an increasing number of tractor-trailers coming through residential areas," Pomeroy said.

"Extending Kelland Drive to Corte Real Road will alleviate that issue. There's a lot of positives to it." 

The budget is less than half of last year's largest-ever budget, since that budget included $26 million for the Central Labrador YMCA. Pomeroy said fundraising efforts to raise the $5 million that is the town's share of the cost of the project are still ongoing. 

"That will continue throughout the construction phase as well as once the project is up and completed," Pomeroy said.

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Work on the project will come to an end in 2020, the town said, and open in early 2021. 

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