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Debbie Murley wasn’t wrong in thinking that a motion to increase the remuneration received by Corner Brook’s council was a done deal.
During Monday night’s public meeting, council voted to approve the increase that was put on the table in the form of a notice of motion two weeks ago.
The increase is to offset a change introduced in federal tax regulations through Bill C44 that means councillors, who up to now paid no tax on a third of what they receive, will have to pay taxes on the entire amount.
But the change didn’t go through without opposition.
Coun. Linda Chaisson, a veteran in her fourth term on council and Coun. Vaughn Granter, who is serving his first term, both voted against the increase.
As a resident of the city, Murley said she attended the meeting thinking the matter would be discussed with a vote to take place later and she wanted to hear how the individual councillors were seeing it.
“To hear the different perspectives.”
She wasn’t the only one in the gallery, four members of the Corner Brook Fire Department and one of the councillor’s spouses were also present.
“The reality is they deserve remuneration,” said Murley after the meeting. “There’s no question about that. Not many of us in the city want that job.
“But that being said, none of us get a whole bunch of tax breaks.”
She said if the Canada Revenue Agency, the provincial government or municipal government come after citizens for more taxes they get dinged every time.
“And there’s no way for us to recoup those losses.”
Murley said she doesn’t necessarily disagree with the decision.
“It’s just that we all get dinged, dinged, dinged, dinged tax wise. We can’t then recoup any of that if they want to raise the mill rate and our taxes go up.”
When the motion was opened for comments there was a brief moment of silence before Chaisson spoke up to start the discussion.
In her nine years on council, Chaisson has repeatedly opposed raising the amount of remuneration that members receive.
In 2009, she voted against an increase, that was ultimately approved, and in 2013 her proposal to freeze council’s wages for the duration of that term was passed unanimously.
Chaisson was the first to speak against the motion on Monday night.
She said it had been a luxury to receive free tax money, but like all good things it comes to an end in 2019.
“As I see it, it would be technically asking the residents of Corner Brook to pay for our increase in the federal taxes applied to the remuneration received by the mayor and council,” she said.
“I definitely see it as a pay increase,” Chaisson said after the meeting. “I see it taking money out of the tax payers and our residents of Corner Brook. Taking it right out of their pockets to pay for Bill C44. To pay for my income tax that’s going to be increased.”
Many around the table spoke of the job that councillors do, the effort they put into it and how the remuneration does not really cover that.
Asked if she went into the role to make money, Chaisson replied: “Definitely not.”
She said if that was the case the city would never be able to afford a salary based on what councillors do.
“I didn’t join this for what money I was getting. I ran for council and got elected on the fact that I really wanted to help the City of Corner Brook.”
And she feels people are already paying out of their noses to live here.
When Granter had the opportunity to speak, he said the total amount of dollars being talked about was not huge when looking at the population of the city.
“However, in these times of challenges, both at the provincial and federal level, any changes in the tax burden of residents should be approached with caution.”
After the meeting Granter said he does think the increase is a raise in council salaries.
“At the end of the day it means extra dollars, although small, that will have to come out of the pockets of every resident of Corner Brook to account for the increase that was approved here this evening.”
He made his decision based on looking at the entire picture, including the tax burden on residents. He said over time all the little pieces of money add up — $20,000 this year, $20,000 next year, to $90,000 over the life of it.
“I’m all for tax breaks. I believe we should keep as much money in the pockets of Canadians, in the pockets of people in Corner Brook. That gets more money into the economy.”
He said he could not support the increase to make his pay equate to what it was before the Bill C44 changes.
Effective January 2019 the remuneration for Corner Brook city council will be:
Mayor — $39,300
Deputy mayor — $27,120
Councillors — $25,380
Also from council:
Corner Brook holding property tax sale Wednesday
Twelve properties within the City of Corner Brook that are significantly in arrears on property tax will be on the auction block on Wednesday.
The city is holding a property tax sale in an attempt to recoup the amounts owing.
The properties that will be available include locations on Crocker Place, St. Mary’s Road, O’Connell Drive and Country Road and 38 St. Aiden’s Rd., 45 Burkes Rd., 6 Bond St., 710 Gearyville Rd., 41 Washington St., 201 Humber Road, 23 Humber Road and 10 Star St.
The auction will take place in the Hutchings Room at city hall at 10 a.m.
There will be a reserve on each property equivalent to the taxes, interest and expense owing to the city.
If the reserve is not met on Wednesday, a second tax sale will take place on Nov. 28, at the same place and time, with no reserve.
Waterman appointed assessment review commissioner
Dennis Waterman will serve as the City of Corner Brook’s assessment review commissioner for 2019.
Waterman was appointed to the position following a vote by city council on Monday night.
Under the Assessment Act the city is required to appoint a person to the position and solicited expressions of interests with Waterman’s being the only one received.
Waterman has served as the city’s commissioner for the past five years.
The estimated cost associated with his appointment is variable based on the number of days of hearings and the preparation required. The proposed rate for 2019 is $650 per day and includes all administrative and secretary support.
It’s proposed that $10,000 being allocated in the 2019 budget to cover the cost. It’s also noted that 2019 is a reassessment year and that traditionally results in a higher number of appeals.
Winter parking ban comes into effect Dec. 1
There may be snow on Corner Brook’s streets now, but there’s still close to two weeks before the city’s winter parking ban comes into effect.
Under the parking ban, which will from Dec. 1 to May 1, motorists are prohibited from parking on city streets from midnight to 8 a.m. The regulation is intended to aid in unobstructed snow clearing.
Vehicles found in violation of the regulation will be ticketed and possibly towed.
In addition to the parking ban, residents are reminded:
Not to park on city streets during daytime snow-clearing operations as this may result in snow being left in the right-of-way
Ensure all structures and vehicles are a minimum of 20 feet from the road centre line
Watch out for snow-clearing equipment, keep back at least 50 feet
Make sure boundary markers comply with regulations, only plastic or wooden, no steel
Refrain from pushing snow into the street right-of-way and around fire hydrants
Help keep neighbourhood fire hydrants clear
Keep your sidewalk clear or snow and ice
No tunnels or snow forts near city streets or snow-removal areas.
Protective services statistics
Municipal enforcement officers with the City of Corner Brook received 121 calls for service in October.
The calls included:
1 untidy property investigation
2 illegal dumping
9 uncovered garbage
2 taxi driver permits issued
43 taxi vehicle inspections — semi-annual inspection resulted in 12 taxis having their permits revoked until repairs were made. All permits have since been reinstated.
31 calls for service, including:
6 roaming animals being impounded
16 animal violation notices issued
10 injured/dead animals
409 parking related violations, including:
304 expired meters
12 fail to back in
44 no parking/no stopping
7 parked on a sidewalk
5 impaired mobility (handicapped parking spaces)
37 various other parking violations (private land, loading zone, wrong direction, etc.)
Corner Brook Fire Department
32 calls for service, including:
5 motor vehicle accidents — multiple injuries
5 motor vehicle accidents — no injuries
1 motor vehicle collision — entrapment
6 alarm bells (commercial alarm ringing)
1 alarm bell (residential alarm ringing)
1 non-emergency call
1 carbon monoxide call
1 smoke visible/smell, residential
2 brush fires
1 chimney fire
2 vehicle fires
1 pole fire
1 forest fire
2 garbage fires
1 workplace/industrial accident (house fell on individual when jacked up)
The department also conducted fire and life safety inspections, including:
8 follow-up inspections
3 O2 inspections
Received 3,197 calls for emergencies, including:
3 Northern 911
1 coast guard
2 natural resources
2 NL Power/Hydro