Mark Felix, chairman of the Stephenville town council’s finance committee, brought down his first budget on Thursday, but it had dissenters at the table.
While the 2018 balanced budget of projected revenue of $8,444,915 and expenditures of the same amount features no tax or fee increases, Coun. Mike Tobin said there should have been a modest decrease in the mill rate.
Felix said there was no increase in the taxes and fees despite increasing costs with garbage fees, energy costs and overall operating costs facing council in 2018. He said 2018 will be a year for council to identify expenditure cuts of five to 10 per cent.
“These savings will be realized as they are identified and used towards the 2019 budget year,” he said.
Tobin said he regretted to have to vote against the budget, stating that at the beginning of 2016 the town was operating with a $911,000 surplus, of which about $475,000 went to the Stephenville Airport Corp. for two grants and more than $200,000 for purchasing a new sander and salt truck.
He said council of the day chose to pay these expenditures rather than borrow and pay interest.
Tobin said the town is now in excellent financial shape, especially with a large loan being paid down in early 2018 and another small loan being retired in March 2019, leaving about $1.2 million in 2019 to 2021 the town didn’t have before.
He said currently the town’s debt ratio is 12 per cent, being reduced to five per cent in April and in 15 months to zero, which not many towns in the province can say.
Tobin said council should have brought in a modest mill rate decrease from its current 7.4 to 7.2 for residential and 8.0 to 7.4 for business, which would have resulted in about $130,000 less in revenues.
“I see no reason why we couldn’t have seen that modest decrease this year,” he said. “However, I support the wishes of the majority of council in what it wants to do.”
Coun. Don Gibbon, who also voted against the budget, said as a councillor he has a responsibility to the taxpayers in seeking a reduction of the mill rate, especially after the town councils since 2005 have worked hard to erase a $13-million deficit.
Felix said with new property assessments due in 2018 it would be premature to try to adjust the rates at this point.
The vote was five in favour and two against.
Highlights of budget
Deliberate effort by council to invest 10 per cent of business tax back into business development.
Economic Development Committee takes the lead in moving the economic and social agenda forward.
Council made a decision to invest in providing a community recreation and wellness co-ordinator position.
Council decided to make an investment in not-for-profit organizations accomplishing tremendous work.
Council recognized the importance of developing a funding reserve dealing with unexpected expenditures, emergencies or solid business or capital investments in future, starting with $50,000.
Council will follow sound financial management procedures for 2018 to identify its fixed operating costs, combined with paying down its debt in 2019 will put it on a target to consider a tax reduction in 2019.
Source: Mark Felix, Stephenville town council finance chair