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City of Corner Brook cuts poll tax in 2020 budget

Coun. Bernd Staeben reads the City of Corner Brook’s 2020 budget during Monday’s public council meeting.
Coun. Bernd Staeben reads the City of Corner Brook’s 2020 budget during Monday’s public council meeting. - Diane Crocker
CORNER BROOK, N.L. —

Some residents of Corner Brook will see some money put back in their pockets in 2020 with the elimination of the poll tax.

The $200 per year tax was eliminated by city council in its 2020 budget, presented by Coun. Bernd Staeben during Monday’s public council meeting.

In his budget speech Staeben, chair of the city’s finance committee, said the poll tax is one of the most contentious and debated forms of taxation.

“I guess people deemed it to be a regressive tax,” said Staeben shortly after presenting the budget, which was unanimously approved by council.

The tax was primarily aimed at students and low-income individuals who didn’t pay property taxes in the city. Some called it a double tax as the rationale was those individuals already paid their share through their rent.

Staeben said the poll tax was also cumbersome for the city to administer in terms of the time and cost involved. It also posed an inconvenience for businesses, which were responsible for submitting lists of their employees to the city.

The current council had vowed to phase out the tax. In 2018 and 2019, council increased the income exemption threshold to $22,500 and then to $32,500.

This resulted in 20 per cent more residents being eligible for exemption in 2018 and closer to 25 per cent more in 2019.

Budget 2019 listed revenue from the poll tax at $240,000, a reduction of $80,000 from 2018.

Staeben said the elimination of the poll tax will mean a reduction in revenue of about $300,000.

The poll tax elimination was not the only good news in the budget. Staeben announced there would be no increase in property tax rates, business tax rates or water and wastewater rates.

So, how is the city able to cut one tax and not increase others and still function and provide services?

“We’ve been very fortunate. Our tax base has grown,” said Staeben.

“I think that 2019 was a good year for the City of Corner Brook.”

Staeben said the city saw new buildings go up and retail operations open in the past year. All that meant more tax revenue going into the coffers.

Staeben added the city is also being more careful with its expenses.

“If you can control your expenses, you’ll have lots of freedom and movement to make good decisions.” 

diane.crocker@thewesternstar.com

Twitter: WS_DianeCrocker        

Revenue comparison

2020
- Municipal tax/water meter — $23,254,400
- Business tax — $5,398,400

2019
- Municipal tax/water meter — $23,129,100
- Business tax — $5,230,700
- Poll tax — $240,000

Other budget highlights

•    Curb and sidewalk repair budget to increase by 31 per cent
•    New equipment purchases for street cleanup
•    Additional funds for asphalt repairs due to water cuts
•    Purchase and operate street train on a permanent basis
•    Fund completion of projects outlined in STAR report, including regional motorized and non-motorized trail development, regional branding, establishment of destination festivals and events
•    Doubling of the budget for playground improvements
•    Additional programing at the Civic Centre for small children and seniors
•    Establishment of three new community gardens
Source: The City of Corner Brook
 

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