West Hants property owners will be paying a bit more to live and work in the municipality this year.
Council unanimously approved the budget July 10, approving with it tax increases for both residential and commercial customers.
Warden Richard Dauphinee said they struggled to keep the rates as low as possible.
“Basically, when we started (the budget process), our residential (rate) would have been up seven cents. We have worked and worked and we even sent staff back to go through every single budget (line),” said Dauphinee. “We made every cut possible we could make here but we still want to be able to deliver the service. We understand it's hard economic times.”
The tax rate for residential customers will rise by three cents to 94 cents per $100 of assessed value, up from 91 cents the year prior. For the commercial sector, the rate went up by eight cents per $100 of assessed value. It's now $1.68 per $100 of assessed value.
“I wish it had of went down or we could have held it,” said Dauphinee.
The warden said the provincial government once again downloaded more costs onto the municipal governments, making it that much harder to make due with the current tax rate.
“Our equalization grant was down, our HST offset was down, our education (costs were up),” said Dauphinee.
“They say they're closing schools, they're doing this and doing that, but here we're paying $156,088 more,” he said.
Dauphinee said the cost for the RCMP went up by $70,855 due to “their staff realignment and their new contract.”
The cost of fire protection, however, remained the same as last year.
“Assessment services were up $5,554. Correctional services were up $47,537. Kings Transit is up $21,873. And, the housing that we pay for, if there's a deficit in that, well, that's up $21, 343,” said Dauphinee as he described some of the challenges council faced when trying to balance the budget.
“What can you change? The figures are the figures. If the provincial government is going to cut, and add on to you, you just can't win.”
Another challenge West Hants faced was the number of commercial properties appealing their assessments.
“There's only one way to make it up and that's in the tax rate,” said Dauphinee, noting the now closed Fundy Gypsum has appealed their assessment.
He said both West Hants and Hantsport are feeling the loss of revenue since Fundy Gypsum closed.
“Every day we're hearing about Bowater. Well, no spotlight was put on us. Nobody gave us $50 million,” said Dauphinee. “But Fundy Gypsum was as big a loss to us as Bowater is to the South Shore.”
Last year, West Hants council raised both the residential and commercial tax rates by one cent per $100 of assessed value.
“What was done to us here, I'm sure other municipal units are the same. I'm shocked when I hear it on the radio that they're holding the line. I won't question them,” he said. “We still have a really good tax rate.”
It was announced earlier this summer that Windsor was going to hold their residential tax rate steady at $1.96 per every $100 of taxable assessment and maintain the $4.08 charged per $100 of taxable assessment on commercial units.
Hantsport council was forced to raise their rates this year in light of losing much tax revenue from Fundy Gypsum.
“I commend our people because we deliver the bad news with the good news,” said Dauphinee.
“We did the job that had to be done.”
West Hants residents pay about a dollar less per $100 of assessed value than their Windsor counterparts (who pay $1.96) and commercial property owners pay $2.40 less per $100 of assessed value than if they set up shop in Windsor.
For example, a homeowner in West Hants with a property valued at $150,000 would now pay about $1,410 in municipal taxes — $45 more than in 2011. A homeowner in Windsor with a property valued at the same amount would pay $2,940.
Hantsport set their tax rate and are levying $1.69 for each $100 of taxable assessment on residential and resource properties, and $3.85 for each $100 of taxable assessment on commercial and business occupancy properties. This amounts to an overall increase of three cents more per $100 of assessed value than the $1.66 rate charged in 2010 for residential, and an increase of 16 cents per $100 of assessed value over the 2010 rate of $3.69 per assessed value for commercial properties.
For a residential property valued at $150,000 in Hantsport, the town would levy about $2,535 in property taxes — that’s $1,125 more than West Hants and $405 less than Windsor.