More service means higher taxes: Three Rivers starts forecasting 2021-22 budget

·2 min read

THREE RIVERS – The relationship between community tax rates and levels of municipal service was a common thread during Three Rivers' preliminary budget discussions.

"I think if you have a service you have to be expected to pay for it," deputy mayor Debbie Johnston said.

Councillors started assessing their priorities for the municipality's 2021-22 operating budget during a special meeting in Georgetown on Jan. 18. Jill Walsh, Three Rivers' chief administrative officer, hopes that it'll be finalized and approved during council's regular meeting in March.

Among the items discussed were hiring and a planning technician. The planning department currently has two planners on staff because one is on indefinite sick leave.

With the development season incoming and Three Rivers' official plan tentatively being completed later this year, a more hands-on technician would help relieve the workload and put the municipality on par with municipalities of similar populations, the department's Danielle Herring said.

"For us to provide the planning services properly and efficiently, I think we need this position."

As well, Three Rivers' staff suggested hiring an economic development officer. This position has been budgeted for in the past but was never filled, Walsh said in a followup interview with The Guardian.

Also discussed was the desire to provide the same level of snow maintenance on Georgetown's sidewalks as is provided in Montague. Currently, Georgetown's sidewalks are not salted, partly because the one along Main Street is in poor condition.

"We eventually want to get toward a standardization of services," Walsh said.

The topic was brought up during last year's budget discussions – the decision would likely result in a roughly four-cent tax increase for Georgetown because Three Rivers would need to purchase a new salting machine, buy more salt for it and hire someone to operate it.

Under community beautification, Coun. Cindy MacLean suggested increasing this budget line so more seasonal decorations can be installed across communities like Georgetown and Cardigan, not just for Montague.

In terms of RCMP policing, the staff is suggesting that Three Rivers retain its current contract by paying for just one officer to be on hand in the region, alongside the Montague detachment's staff sergeant.

Council had further discussions during a closed council session, namely to go over the staff salaries budget line.

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Daniel Brown, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian