County of Kings ratepayers might be paying more property tax this year but only because of growth in assessed values.
Kings County council set the tax rates and approved the operating and capital budgets for the 2019-2020 fiscal year at a recent special meeting.
Council has again held the line on tax rates, setting the residential rate at $0.853 per $100 of assessed property value and the commercial rate at $2.287 per $100 of assessed value.
The operating budget is balanced with revenues and expenditures of $48,038,144. A capital and project budget with gross expenditures of $21,288,602 has been approved. This represents 48 projects.
Mayor Peter Muttart said it’s always difficult to arrange a budget without affecting the tax rate. Although the overall increase in assessed property value is not as high as in past years, he said there has been a “modest” increase across the municipality. This enables council to put on the brakes in terms of increasing tax rates.
Council has increased the amount budgeted for various grant programs this year, from $2,096,010 in 2018-2019 to $2,234,700 in 2019-2020.
When it comes to providing operating grants for non-profit community organizations, for example, Muttart said the demand always outweighs the supply. Council has to “scale back the expectations.”
In recent years, the process has been streamlined for efficiency. More accountability for organizations requesting grants has been built in.
“In a perfect world, the application would exactly match the funds available but we do have to budget. We just can’t do it on the fly,” Muttart said.
If assessed property values don’t continue to go up year over year, he said it is inevitable that there will be a tax rate increase of one or two cents at some point.
There are several major projects on the go and the municipality potentially may have to borrow some money to finance these.
“It’s appropriate that we amortize those rather than try to pay for them out of the taxpayer’s pocket right away,” Muttart said.
Council has approved a Temporary Borrowing Resolution (TBR), valid for one year, for $6,304,746. This represents $1,800,000 for a new engineering and public works garage; $868,871 for the Connect to Innovate Broadband Internet project, $2,815,875 for J-class street paving, $70,000 for an electric vehicle charging station at the new municipal complex in Coldbrook and $750,000 for regional sewage treatment plant aeration.
Muttart said the fact that council has approved the TBR doesn’t necessarily mean that the municipality will have to borrow the money. The TBR “postures” the municipality to be able to borrow from the appropriate agency at the most favourable rate to finance projects, subject to the approval of the provincial Municipal Affairs minister.
Muttart said it’s a matter of which projects come on stream and how quickly. For example, a project may get deferred for any number of reasons and the municipality wouldn’t have to borrow money to finance it this year. Or, the municipality may be in a position to fund a given project without borrowing.
Although approved budgets have yet to be received from the various boards, contributions to inter-municipal service agreement organizations such as Kings Transit, Valley Waste Resource Management, the Valley Community Fibre Network and Valley Regional Enterprise Network are expected to increase significantly.
This is mostly related to budget uncertainty for Valley Waste. The projected increase in the Valley Waste budget is forecasted to be funded from the 2019-2020 operating reserve.
Muttart said one of his primary goals as mayor has been to find ways of generating revenue aside from property taxation. Initiatives such as these would promote lower tax rates in the future.
He said council is looking into renewable energy projects, for example, and is encouraging third parties to engage in such initiatives.
BY THE NUMBERS
Some highlights from the 2019-2020 County of Kings budget include:
- An increase of $1,187,306 in revenues for total budgeted revenues of $48,038,144 for this fiscal year.
- $927,104 of the revenue increase relates to taxation revenue, driven mostly by residential property assessments
- An increase of more than $390,000 in contributions for provincial services, for a total budget of $14,709,418. Examples include property valuation, correctional services, regional housing, regional library, education and municipal highways.
- An increase of 0.8 per cent for RCMP services, for a total of $7,200,000.
- Municipal departmental budgets increased by 2.1 per cent, for a total budget of $11,652,228 for all departments.
- A reduction in operating and capital reserves from $23.7 million to $21 million, maintaining a balance in excess of the minimum desired threshold established by the province.