By Nancy Kelly
A Berwick-area businessman and property developer thinks its time for Berwick to be come more competitive by making some changes to its deed transfer tax.
At the Jan. 8 council meeting, Murray Saunders asked council to initiate a review of the land transfer tax, established in 1998 to pad the town’s coffers.
“If it could be amended, phased, changed or eliminated, it would put Berwick on an even playing field,” with communities that don’t charge the tax, Saunders said in his appeal to council.
At its onset, an additional half of a per cent was collected by the town on the sale of all property. The tax was subsequently raised to one per cent and it now sits at 1.5 per cent, the maximum allowable under the Municipal Government Act (MGA).
Berwick and Wolfville, which also levies a 1.5 per cent deed transfer tax, are the only two municipal units in Kings County that charge the tax. Hantsport, Kentville and the County of Kings do not impose a deed transfer tax.
Berwick’s CAO, Don Reagan, reported council has debated the deed transfer tax issue “virtually every year.” He said the tax raises approximately $145,000 in revenue for the town annually.
“The question is whether (council) can be weaned off that revenue stream.”
Councillors recently started a series of pre-budget priority-setting sessions that Reagan anticipates will wrap up in early February. He says public input, like that received from Saunders, is welcomed. He encourages residents to contact council members with budget-related suggestions.
Reagan explained council’s options for revamping the land transfer tax include adjusting the rate lower or abolishing it all together. Under the MGA, the fee cannot be targeted. If charged, it must apply to all property sales.