Towns 'struggling,' says Municipalities NL president as budgets across the province look ahead to 2021

·2 min read
Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Cities and towns across Newfoundland and Labrador are making tough decisions this year to table a balanced budget, after most have witnessed reliable revenue dry-up and an increase in spending amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Municipalities NL President Sheila Fitzgerald told CBC News towns need stability in order to rebuild after this year.

Fitzgerald, also mayor of Roddickton-Bide Arm, said nobody expected a pandemic, and increased costs put a strain on municipal coffers.

"We're working closely with our members to find out what this has meant for them in terms of being able to balance their budget," she said.

"Unexpectedly we've had an increase [in spending] because of the need for extra sanitization, PPE, signage. Technology was ... a big cost to us in the past calendar year. So I know that municipalities this year are often struggling."

Fitzgerald said municipal leaders are doing the best they can with their available resources to ensure safety for their residents and avoid tax increases.

CBC
CBC

But, by staving off tax increases right now, Fitzgerald said councils aren't eliminating the prospect down the road.

"We know that we're going to get through this, and it's going to be a different time a year or so from now, and as councils we're challenged by making difficult decisions around short-term goals and long-term goals," she said.

"Right now the short-term goal is to ensure our communities are safe and we're maintaining essential services."

A brief roundup

In St. John's, the city has decided not to raise property taxes despite a projected deficit between $10 million and $12 million. However, the city is using fee and fine increases as a way to bolster revenue streams.

General parking tickets have risen from $30 to $50, and winter parking ban tickets are now $75 as opposed to $55, for example.

Meanwhile, Corner Brook is raising taxes on some businesses rather than on homeowners, and in Conception Bay South, the town isn't raising taxes or fees at all.

CBC
CBC

In Mount Pearl the city reduced the mill rate from 7.4 to 7.1 and isn't changing facility fees in 2021.

The city is also reducing operational expenditures by $2.5 million, including a temporary management wage freeze, four positions to be eliminated and decreases in seasonal road, parks, landscaping, and water work in the new year. There are no changes to commercial property, business tax, water or rates and fees.

The Town of Paradise opted to decrease residential property tax, while increasing commercial property tax. Water and sewer fees are also in the incline for the new year for both residential and commercial properties.

In Gander residential and commercial property taxes have been reduced, though water and sewer fees are increasing slightly for residential properties by 0.4 per cent.

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