WINDSOR, N.S. - For the first time in several years the Town of Windsor’s tax rate is changing. But it’s not going up.
Thanks to a growth in commercial assessments and other factors, council was able to recommend a tax decrease of four cents to the commercial rate - $3.95 per $100 assessment instead of $3.99 and two cents off of the residential rate - $1.88 per $100 instead of $1.90.
This is despite an increase in some expenses, including two new staffing positions - one for public works, and an addition of a communications/marketing person to handle the town’s messaging and social media accounts among other things.
All councillors voted in favour of all aspects of the budget, except for councillor Jim Ivey who voted against the operational and capital budgets, seeking more cuts to spending.
Ivey suggested during discussions that council should be looking at ways to avoid growing government spending as population growth and other factors aren’t keeping pace.
Council will still need to formally ratify the budget in a future council meeting.
Mayor Anna Allen commended staff for their hard work on reigning in expenses as much as possible over the five days of budget discussions.
“For a number of years council has wanted to reduce the tax rate, but we didn’t have the extra income coming in through assessment,” Allen said. “This year we had more coming in, especially through commercial, and the deed transfer tax.”
When asked if it’s a risk for the town to rely on those assessment increases, Allen said those assessments should stay relatively stable, unless the market changes in a major way or buildings have to get torn down.
“I think the budget is sustainable, moving forward into next year as well,” she added. “When the election was called, one thing we heard at the doorstep again and again was that they didn’t want their taxes raised, in fact many wanted them lowered.”
Things will get a bit trickier for Windsor council next year, with two major capital expenses coming down the pipe - the new arena project at Long Pond and a new aerial fire truck for the Windsor Fire Department. Both have the potential of increasing the town’s debt and could lead to a tax increase, depending on how those expenses are handled.
Despite that, Allen said she’s confident the town will be able to maintain the new, lower tax rate structure.
“There is some new development going on in town that’s certainly going to help in terms of revenue,” she said.
Allen also said council may decide to fund those projects, at least partially through the town’s operating reserves or surplus funds if the town has another surplus, which is likely to be determined in June.
In terms of municipal indicators from the provincial department of municipal affairs, one item stuck out as problematic, which was the town’s number of surpluses, or budget accuracy.
However, Windsor Chief Administrative Officer Louis Coutinho shrugged this off, saying a surplus means the town’s reserve funds will remain healthy - which can be used during emergencies or one-time expenses.
Business owners and residents react
Melanie Francis, co-owner of the Lucky Italiano restaurant on Water Street said she was happy to see a decrease in the commercial tax rate.
“It’ll be a nice break, because costs are rising all across the board, so it certainly is a good step towards encouraging business in Windsor,” Francis said.
Francis leases the building she operates out of, but says that a decrease in the tax rate should stymie any potential rent increases.
“The tax rates translate onto renters and leasers, which a lot of people are, which is a monthly overhead cost that can be burdensome,” she said. “Hopefully the rent won’t go up with this.”
Alex Blois, who rents an apartment in town, said he’s hopeful the decrease in residential rates will also help renters like himself.
“Hopefully it would be reflected from the landlord to the tenant,” he said. “Certainly fewer increases to the rent. Landlords who own multiple properties are going to look at increasing the rates if the tax goes up.”
David Tremblay owns a home in town and is hoping to open a business in the coming months in the downtown - so this news is a double whammy for him.
“Beautiful,” Tremblay said when he heard about the rates lowering.
“I’m just starting renovations for a new business, so that decrease will really help with my bottom line,” he said. “And the less money I spend on taxes for my home, means the more I can spend at local businesses.”
Tremblay is planning to open a micro-distillery in Windsor’s downtown.
How will the new tax rate impact you?
Residential: The former residential tax rate, at $1.90 per $100 of assessed value on a home valued at $150,000 would cost $2,850 in taxes. Now at $1.88 per $100 of assessed value, that same home will have to pay $2,820. A decrease of $30.
Commercial: The former commercial tax rate, at $3.99 per $100 of assessed value on a commercial property valued at $150,000 would cost $5,985 in taxes. Now at $3.95 per $100 of assessed value, that same property will have to pay $5,925. A decrease of $60.