Despite a reduction in of revenue for 2021 due to decreased property assessments, the Town of Paradise will be holding both residential and commercial mil rates steady at 7.2 and 11.5 respectively.
That will mean a reduction in property taxes for over 80 per cent of residents next year.
“This year property assessments throughout the province have decreased and like all municipalities, that means we are facing a reduction in tax revenues,” said deputy mayor Elizabeth Laurie, who read the budget speech during the Dec. 15 meeting of council. Laurie co-chairs council’s finance committee. “Council understands the difficulties all residents have been facing throughout 2020 and likely into next year, and we felt it prudent to maintain the mil rates.”
The Town will be using $1.2 million in Safe Restart funding, money gifted from federal and provincial governments to help cover financial losses due to COVID-19, to help maintain mil rates.
“Our hope is that for those residents who can, they will use the reduction in their property tax to support our local businesses, thereby helping them address COVID-19 impacts and all that they have faced in 2020,” read Laurie.
The Town has balanced the budget, as mandated by the province, of $37.2 million. 48 per cent of the Town’s revenue, or $17.8 million, is expected to come from residential property taxes — by far the largest chunk of revenue. Residential water and sewer fees are the second highest source of revenue, and will only bring in about $5 million, at 14 per cent. Business tax accounts for 13 per cent of the Town’s revenue next year, or $4.7 million.
The Town’s expenses are more spread out, with transportation accounting for the largest expense, at about $7.8 million, or 21 per cent. That expense includes vehicle operation and maintenance, roads and sidewalks, snow removal, public transit and street lighting and traffic lights.
The Budget detailed some other expected investments and expenditures anticipated throughout the year.
One of the largest was a $2 million investment in a multi-sport turf at the Dianne Whalen Memorial Soccer Complex.
The investment is being made without any provincial or federal contribution, despite past attempts to secure funding dating over several years. The multi-use turf complex is set to be just the first phase of upgrades to the Dianne Whalen Memorial Soccer Complex.
The Town will also be investing $900,000 in street rehabilitation, and will continue Crossing Guard programs for schools, and will employ traffic calming measures, including extra signage, additional line painting, curb bump-outs and mid-lane break away posts, currently in use at Elizabeth Park Elementary, in other school zones as well.
The Town will also be upgrading Moonlight Drive, and, while crews are working on Moonlight Drive, will also complete the water and sewer, despite other roads in Paradise being ahead of Moonlight Drive on the water and sewer priority list.
“It was a difficult decision for Council to deviate from the priority list, but we felt we must in this situation,” read Laurie. “We don’t want to complete road upgrades only to have to tear it up in a couple of years to complete water and sewer. We understand the importance of water and sewer for the streets listed next on the priority list – Stephens Road, Neary Road, Windmill Road and Bayview Heights, and this Council is unanimously committed to complete that work in 2022.”
It’s a move that both Laurie and councillor Deborah Quilty said will likely cause some discussion, and maybe some controversy, amongst residents, but it was the decision that was the most fiscally responsible.
Anyone looking to build their first home in Paradise will likely be delighted to hear that, for next year only, the Town is eliminating the fee for new home construction permits.
Council unanimously approved to adopt the budget as presented Tuesday evening.
Mark Squibb, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shoreline News