The Town of Wolfville has set its budget for 2014-2015 and kept taxes for ratepayers at the same level.
The new budget, approved last week, was set at $9,279,100. The residential tax rate of $1.43 per $100 of assessment is unchanged for the fifth year. The commercial tax rate once again sits at $3.55 per hundred dollars of assessment.
Finance director Mike MacLean pegged the capital budget at $2.5 million in funded projects and a further $8.5 million in capital infrastructure priorities, which will require the support of federal/provincial funding.
He noted that there is an $8.54 million portion of the budget that is currently unfunded, pending efforts to obtain federal/provincial cost sharing. Roadwork on Oak and Kencrest avenues and Bay Street is already funded by the town, while the as-yet unfunded segment involves Main Street repairs.
Mayor Jeff Cantwell said he hoped that Kings South MLA Keith Irving, a former councilor, will support the town’s bid for funding for Highway 1, as it runs through the town.
Several new capital projects are planned, including an aggressive capital improvement program, which comprises Main Street rehabilitation, an active transportation corridor, the implementation of LED streetlights, multi-year street design and underground infrastructure. This continues the town’s trend of increasing the resource allocations toward capital project funding.
“We are extremely pleased that the town was able to enhance services such as bylaw (enforcement) and our capital improvement program this year without any impact to the tax rate,” said Cantwell.
“Where I get concerned is when I see the province of Nova Scotia providing a meager one per cent of our overall budget through grants, but I see over 24 per cent of our tax dollars being funneled into provincial areas of responsibility.”
Chief administrative officer Josh Pyrcz said he’s happy the budget will not impact the tax rate, but echoed Cantwell’s funding concerns.
“Both the mayor and I share concerns about the inequity between provincial funding for rural areas and urban areas such as Wolfville. Our residents pay for county roads while the province directs their staff to lift the blade of the snowplow at the town boundary. We need to remember, there is only one taxpayer,” he said.
Wolfville collects $860,400 in the base tax rate that goes directly to the province. The town also pays a portion of the provincial RCMP costs to serve the Annapolis Valley Region, a further $1.3 million.
The operations budget is intended, MacLean said, to continue, and in several areas enhance, council priorities for the community. Key among this is the continuation of bylaw enforcement staffing, completion of tourism, recreation and downtown strategic plans and input from a contractual consultant in economic development.
MacLean said the town would like to hire a second bylaw officer this year, which would be funding through parking fine revenues. The town has had revenues of $23,000 annually from fines.
In accordance with the provincial cap, the assessment value of the average house in Wolfville increased by 0.9 per cent. Last year, Wolfville approved an operating budget of $9 million and a capital budget of $3.1 million.
The complete budget can be viewed on the town’s website at www.wolfville.ca.