Stuart says financial reality may force that decision.
“In hindsight, we probably should have had a two per cent (increase) last year, rolled a little bit into reserves, and we still might roll some (revenue) into reserves,” said Stuart.
“We’ll try to cut everything down as usual, but it’s been quite a year for us. We’ve spent a lot of money,” he added, noting in previous years, the town has had to implement tax hikes in the four to five per cent range “which is pretty bad, right, for a town our size.”
Stuart said examples of those significant expenses include construction of the north sewage lift station, estimated to cost a total $650,000 ($736,000 when estimated maintenance costs over 50 years are added in); paving at the rest stop; and directionally drilling a new sewer line.
He noted grants from various levels of government helped cover costs for those and other projects undertaken but they were still a big strain on town finances, because, due to a lack of commercial and industrial businesses in the community, 82 per cent of the town’s tax base comes from residential property taxpayers.
“I think for every one per cent tax increase, it’s about $4,000 or $5,000 that we actually get for revenue. So a five per cent tax increase doesn’t really give us a lot of extra revenue,” Stuart said.
He also noted that sewer and water rates will be rising as a result of decisions made by regional commissions for those two utilities.
He said the sewer rate increase will take effect “right away” and the water hike will come into effect April 1.
“Water’s going up a nickel and the sewer’s going up a dime, I think,” he said. “I think all of council’s really motivated – and they have been for as long as I know – to keep the tax increase as low as possible,” Stuart said, however he hinted taxes may have to rise this year.
Council is expected to begin work on the budget in late January, likely wrapping it up in early spring.
Robb Stuart, mayor of Bowden
“We’ll try to cut everything down as usual, but it’s been quite a year for us. We’ve spent a lot of money.”