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The town hall in Quispamsis. Image: Brad Perry

Quispamsis Considers 3.14 Cent Drop In Tax Rate

By Brad Perry Oct 27, 2022 | 2:16 PM

Quispamsis plans to lower its tax rate by 3.14 cents next year, even as it deals with higher expenses.

Councillors in the town took part in a day-long budget deliberation session on Tuesday.

Staff proposed lowering the residential rate to $1.2849 per $100 of assessed value from $1.3163.

Mayor Libby O’Hara said they have no choice given the huge property assessment increases many residents are facing.

The local government minister has suggested that municipalities “attempt to adjust their property tax rate where possible” to help offset the higher assessment values.

“That was said without a whole lot of consideration for the work that municipalities put into running their towns and cities,” O’Hara said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“We felt that it was important for us to try to bridge those gaps for residents.”

Budget details

The proposed general operating budget for 2023 is just over $31 million, an increase of nearly 10 per cent.

Quispamsis has seen its costs rise in most areas — policing costs are up by eight per cent, the fire department budget by nearly 13 per cent, and solid waste collection by more than seven per cent.

But the most contentious issue for council has been the budget increase for the Fundy Regional Service Commission (FRSC), which is taking on new responsibilities as part of local governance reform.

As part of the changes, the town will have to start contributing toward capital work at several regional facilities owned by the City of Saint John.

“We are going to be paying more money out of the taxpayers of Quispamsis,” said O’Hara, describing the issue as “a thorn” in her side.

The final FRSC budget has yet to be approved, so Quispamsis does not yet know exactly how much it will be contributing in 2023.

Commission members rejected the budget last week as they push back against downloaded costs from the province. Local Government and Local Governance Reform Minister Daniel Allain will now have the final say.

The budget also includes a roughly three per cent increase in water and sewer rates. User fees at the qplex and Quispamsis Memorial Arena will also be going up by between three and four per cent.

O’Hara said the budget process is not easy when you are dealing with increased costs while also trying to reduce the tax burden on residents.

“It goes without saying — we can’t make everybody happy,” she said.

Non-residential tax rate

This will be the first year local governments have more flexibility when it comes to setting their non-residential tax rate.

Until now, the non-residential rate was automatically set at 1.5 times the residential rate, but legislation passed earlier this year allows municipalities to set the rate between 1.4 and 1.7.

Staff in Quispamsis proposed setting the rate at 1.7, but council passed a motion to change it to 1.55.

“It was not fair to our commercial and business community to expect them to suddenly have to pay for the changes that were made by the provincial government,” said O’Hara.

“We felt that 1.55 would bridge a little bit of the gap and it wouldn’t be as heavy a burden as 1.7.”

Capital projects

Quispamsis plans to spend around $5.7 million on capital projects in 2023, down from more than $9 million included in this year’s budget.

O’Hara said the decision was made in an effort to try and balance increasing costs.

“There are only so many dollars in our budget, and when the costs go up, that means that we narrow down on how much we can spend or how much work we can actually do,” she said.

The proposed budget includes more than $2.3 million for street capital and $339,000 for work at the qplex, including $200,000 to replace the Zamboni.

There is also $130,000 budgeted to install splash pad equipment at Firefly Park, $120,000 for a washroom building at the new Millennium Cycle Bike Park, and $50,000 for active transportation and trail construction.

Council could approve the budget as early as next week.


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