CORNER BROOK — Seeking out sources of revenue that are not tied directly to the value of an individual’s property is something Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley said Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador (MNL) will be focusing its attention on.
Greeley, who is vice-president of the MNL board, said finding other sources of revenue and strengthening the fiscal framework agreement between municipalities and the province were just some of the things discussed at MNL’s annual convention this past weekend in Gander.
The topic was a timely one as property assessments sent to home owners by the provincial Municipal Assessment Agency over the last week or so have shown huge increases in assessed values.
Greeley said the average increase in the city is between 25 and 28 per cent.
“That’s one of the faults of the tax assessment being based on a property tax and a value being associated to that property,” said Greeley of the increase.
He said property taxes and business taxes are a municipality’s only source of revenue.
However, he said that doesn’t mean that if somebody’s property assessment goes up by 100 per cent that their taxes are going to go up by 100 per cent.
“We’re obliged by law to have a balanced budget,” said Greeley.
That means the revenue collected can’t be higher than the expenditures and as a result the city may have to reduce its current mill rate of 9.25 to offset the increased values.
Regardless of what the value of a property is, Greeley said it is inevitable that some people will see an increase in their taxes as the cost of providing services continues to increase.
“Because if the assessments on property were to fall back, then municipalities would basically have to increase the mill rate or cut the services that they’re providing in order to meet their needs.”
Meanwhile, federal waste water regulations also generated some discussion at the convention.
Greeley said a presentation on the regulations highlighted a reduction in the number of sewer outfalls that had previously been classified as high risk.
Greeley said the federal government based the risk on the volume of outfall and that volume has been increased. Before 20 homes on an outfall would have been categorized as high risk, said Greeley.
“But today that same outfall would require upwards of 100 homes before it would be classified as high risk.”
The change, he said, means a great deal for some municipalities.
With outfalls no longer classified as high risk, Greeley said that gives municipalities more time to comply with the regulations.
Which he said is important as many don’t have the ability to invest in costly infrastructure and are already struggling to provide clean drinking water.
“It’s hard to argue as a municipality that you’re going to put money into cleaning the water that comes out of your toilet when you don’t have clean water to drink coming out of your tap.
“That’s a big challenge facing a lot of communities.”
However, he said it’s something Corner Brook has been planning for since 2002 when it introduced water and sewer levees so that when it came time to build a waste water treatment facility it would have the capital in place.
“The biggest drawback for us is the lack right now of a dedicated pot of money (from the federal government) to enable communities to be able to meet the federal waste water regulations.”