Balancing books not easy, says Corner Brook deputy mayor

Gary
Gary Kean
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CORNER BROOK  Deputy Mayor Bernd Staeben described putting together the first budget for the current Corner Brook city council as a “daunting” task.

Faced with things like the loss of a $660,000 municipal operating grant, normally given by the provincial government, and an expected 67 per cent cost in waste collection and disposal fees, Staeben said it was not easy to balance the budget while not raising taxes or fees for property and business owners.

The city is also going to get an estimated $150,000 less in poll tax after approving a budget that makes many full-time students in Corner Brook exempt from paying that $200 annual tax.

Despite expecting more than $800,000 less in operating revenues and another $800,000 or so in increased costs in the coming year, the 2014 budget will be nearly three per cent lower than it was one year ago. This year’s budget rings in at $30,281,300, compared to the $31,189,800 budget delivered for 2013 last December.

“I believe it warrants repeating just how daunting the task of balancing this budget has been,” said Staeben, who chairs the city’s corporate services policy advisory committee.

The residential property tax will remain at 8.0 mills for the coming year, with seniors on a fixed income still able to apply for a 15 per cent discount. The commercial property rate will stay at 12.5 mills, while the general commercial business tax mill rate — the rate which applies to most businesses in Corner Brook — is unchanged at 17.0 mills.

 

Water

While the levies applied to water and sewer services will also not be rising, the city will require the installation of a water meter in all new residential and commercial construction, effective in 2014.

“The information gathered from these water meters will be analyzed to understand the water usage patterns and to educate residents and business owners on the importance of water conservation,” said Staeben. “It’s quite simple really, the more you save, the more we all save.”

The city is on the hook for $26 million of the $50 million cost for its new water treatment plant, which will be operational in 2014. Corner Brook has already begun paying down on that debt to the tune of $1.75 million per year.

To help offset the cost of the plant, the city will apply the one-time $4 million in capital works funding provided by the provincial government in lieu of eliminating the municipal operating grant to it.

Staeben asked the provincial government for its continued support in helping Corner Brook maintain its position as a regional service hub for western Newfoundland. That included a call for the province to expediently come up with the new municipal fiscal framework it has promised to replace the abandoned municipal operating grant system.

“This council implores the provincial government to complete this process as quickly as possible as we cannot plan for the future without knowing the rules of the game,” said Staeben. “Just as we are expected to bring down our municipal budget in December each year, we should have the right to expect that the province also provide us with clear direction on how it intends to proceed before we make any financial decisions.”

 

Waste management

As of Jan. 1, the City of Corner Brook will relinquish its responsibility for the Wild Cove landfill site to the Western Regional Service Board. The board has advised the city that the tipping fee for 2014 will be $48.73 per tonne, which the city expects will drive its waste collection and disposal costs up to  $979,000.

That will be a 67 per cent increase from the $588,000 budgeted by the city for that expense in its 2013 budget.

Staeben said it is anticipated that the financial burden placed upon Corner Brook taxpayers will increase significantly as the provincial waste management strategy is further introduced in coming years.

“It is imperative that, as residents, we all work together to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill,” he said during his budget speech. “It is not only important for the environment, it is important to our bottom line.”

Staeben said the city will do its part by implementing further measures and education initiatives to encourage all residents and businesses to reduce the weight and volume of garbage.

 

Poll tax

In terms of the sometimes controversial poll tax, which the city previously raised from $175 to $200, council has decided to increase the exemption limit such that any full-time student earning less than about $23,000 in the prior year can apply to be exempt from paying the tax.

“I would like to make it clear that council is committed to reviewing the poll tax in future years and hopes to eliminate it entirely before the end of this council’s term,” said Staeben.

 

Fire department

The city does plan to generate some revenue by charging municipalities or property owners for all costs associated with calls the Corner Brook Fire Department responds to outside its jurisdiction.

“The Corner Brook Fire Department will still respond to calls outside of our boundary when asked, but the city will no longer provide those services free of charge,” said Staeben.

Organizations: Western Regional Service Board

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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Recent comments

  • SayWhat
    December 03, 2013 - 20:52

    Did anybody go on line and read the brief budget? Spending at City Hall is at an all time high!! 25 percent of the 30 million dollar budget is only spent on two items: Capital and equipment along with debt. The first item is down because the previous administration had to make a major expenditure for the fire department. That was sooooo taken advantage of by Pender's second reign. Oh sure there are no cell phones, but there is no mention about the cell phone bills that no doubt will be handed into the accounting department at Corner Brook City Hall. Read the rest of the budget and see the operating expenditures. All those that got elected on the platform the previous administration was spending too much and they were going to cut the fat at Corner Brook City Hall should hang their heads in shame, offer a public apology and/or resign.

  • Ed. Anstey
    December 03, 2013 - 12:32

    I would like to applaud the mayor and councillors on their first budget. I fully believe it is an attempt to keep their election promises and I thank you for that. we would all like to have our taxes reduced to zero but the real world do not work like that so we have to sometimes bite the bullet and strive for better next year. one thing that people should realize is that what they reduce for you must come from somewhere else. ( do senior citizens come to mind?) congrats to our mayor and council. have a nice day.

  • InCB
    December 03, 2013 - 09:42

    Wow council has been in only a couple months and people start complaining already. Things do take time people. From what I can tell its a good start with no increase in taxes and what appears to be a start of phasing out the poll tax. Just be ready for water metres as we are going to start paying for what we use which is the way it should be.

    • John
      December 03, 2013 - 17:12

      Stuff your water meters!!!!!!!

    • lyn
      December 05, 2013 - 10:36

      Are you serious InCB??? You don't think we pay enough already? They will find some way to get $$ out of us,there's no doubt about that. (Ex:last winter, all the steps in Curling were barred off so they didnt have to be shovelled.)

  • Will
    December 03, 2013 - 09:42

    Did anyone see this in the budget document ... "MONTHLY METERED WATER RATES shall be $4.00 for each 1,000 gallons (4,546 litres)"... sounds like a tax for the new water meters on new home construction. Maybe I'm right, maybe I'm wrong???

  • Dennis
    December 03, 2013 - 09:05

    Very pleased to see the focus on the poll tax issue which is very key. I tend to cut council some slack by starting the process to phase it out in 2014. Hard to eliminate fully in a year without other committed tax increases. The campaign committment was to phase it out I believe.

  • CBGirl
    December 03, 2013 - 08:58

    What this story fails to mention is the travel budget being slashed by 20,000 and the turfing of funded blackberrys. At least the poll tax is slowly being eliminated. The previous council liked to spend spend spend. At the very least frivolous spending is being reigned in.

  • IAMtheJIB
    December 03, 2013 - 08:43

    The call before the last election was for new blood with fresh ideas for Corner Brook, yet the top dawgs that won said election are also old dawgs with respect to Corner Brook City Council and part of the old guard that has retarded this communities growth for many years. Do you seriously expect anything to change? Suck it up Corner Brook, you got exactly what you voted for.

  • Jack
    December 03, 2013 - 08:16

    Appears to be a good budget. No property tax increases. I suspect this was a political budget laying the foundation for future tax increases. Hints such as increased fees for waste approx. $200.00 per year is looming. The mayor and council are already distancing themselves from these fee increases by saying the city is not responsible. The introduction of water meters on new residential construction will undoutedly place a new tax on property owners in the future. A new water tax. They say it is a study but it really means water tax . The elimination of poll tax by the end of councils term signals additional taxes will be required to replace the revenue loss. Very slick? Municipal assessees will soon be making their rounds updating the property values. I suspect the values will undoubtedly increase and with that increased property taxes even at 8 mills assessed. Their was no mention in the bydget of the subsidy for gymnastic community worth approx 300,000, for a new building. The city probably trying to handle this in a quiet way.

  • brad
    December 03, 2013 - 07:57

    And theres the first one broken.Not good.It is almost 2014 and theres still a POLL TAX? Wow!!!

    • Harry
      December 03, 2013 - 08:30

      Cancel the poll tax and create a city use tax for persons who have no property in the city. We have persons in the city whom earn in excess 20,000.00 and up a year and they enjoy the services of this city and choose to live in . I agree that the students and the poor should not have to pay but if you have the means then pay like everyone else. The city should study the income kevels if the persons living in apartments and they will see I am right, most of these persons have the ability to pay a services tax.....

  • William Roberts
    December 03, 2013 - 07:04

    It's no surprise that Staeben is dressed like the great showman P.T. Barnum. It looks like there are 20,000 suckers in Corner Brook. What happened to all the fiscal waste that Staeben campaigned on? What about getting back to basics and reining in the spending. Staeben campaigned at my parents doorsteps and promised to clean things up. What has he and the rest of council done? Nothing. Pender talked about how rising taxes were unsustainable, implying that they could come down. Have they? No. What about taking back control of the Pepsi Centre like Staeben campaigned on? A couple of months ago we had more then enough cash for all the campaign promises and now the task is daunting. I think your bow tie is tied a little too tight Mr. Staeben.

  • Dan Murphy
    December 02, 2013 - 22:38

    Pender for Mayor Campaign Brochure ""Transparency and Good Government": Phase out the Poll Tax" Budget 2013 "poll tax, which the city raised from $175 to $200" This is what is so disheartening about leadership............

  • Dan Murphy
    December 02, 2013 - 22:15

    The city of Corner Brook saw an increase tipping fees coming yet nothing was done, no pre-planning, no thinking ahead. Money that could have been redirected toward a curb side composting and recycling program will now go out an exhaust pipe transporting our garbage to central.

  • Time for a change
    December 02, 2013 - 22:04

    Paula and Jackie, they said they would work to eliminate the Poll Tax over time…they have been in office for 2 months…in my books they have another 46 months to get it done. Overall a very pragmatic and sensible budget that cuts spending and keeps taxes in check.

  • Paula
    December 02, 2013 - 21:54

    Not impressed! The main reason I voted for Mayor Pender was his promise to abolish the outdated, double dipping Poll Tax....something only still in existence in NL....I lived in 4 different provinces as a renter, so I know. How many people who live outside of CB, but work here don't have to pay it? But the lowest income earners who do live here and rent, get charged this ridiculous tax, when the property owners have already paid tax on the residence in which we live! Time to get a petition on the go and put our foot down! Get rid of it or I will be one less voter in this city!

  • Jackie Barrett
    December 02, 2013 - 20:12

    As a person with a developmental disability, I'm more than appalled at Bernd Staeben, Mayor Pender, and Corner Brook City Council for breaking their election promise to make life more affordable for low income Corner Brook residents including the elimination of the Poll Tax. As a result of Corner Brook City Hall's double crossing ways and broken election promises, this city will continue to face national or even international embarrassment. Since Corner Brook will be hosting a major national level Special Olympics event in two years and three months from now, the 2016 Special Olympics Canada Winter Games, to prove that Corner Brook truly welcomes persons with disabilities, Corner Brook City Hall should do the right thing and eliminate this Poll Tax, not at the end of the mandate, but now. Until Bernd Staeben and Corner Brook City Council eliminates the Poll Tax as promised in their recent election campaigns, I give Mr. Staeben's budget two thumbs down unequivocally.