Sidney homeowners will pay, on average, $33.66 more in 2014 on their municipal tax bill.
Sidney council on Tuesday night made a few changes to the 2014 portion of their five-year financial plan to lessen the tax impact on their residents, commercial property owners and industrial businesses.
Their initial overall tax increase this year was at 2.86 per cent (or $36 for the year for an average home) when the budget deliberations began. Sidney is facing increased service costs with the addition of a new RCMP officer and a new full-time firefighter, among other costs.
To bring that rate down, council voted to defer a few items from the budget.
A planned study on the replacement of the Reay Creek dam, estimated to cost $20,000, was eliminated this year. Another $15,000 was saved by dropping plans for the Beacon Avenue wharf replacement study. Another $9,000 was saved when council decided to cut in half their planned traffic calming plans for Bowerbank Drive and build only one small roundabout this year.
With the Reay Creek dam money offset by a loss of $20,000, the overall tax hike this year will be 2.61 per cent. Town staff now have until April to finalize the financial plan for council.
That loss of $20,000 came from council’s decision not to standardize its light industrial tax rate. Council has been lobbied against that by local industrial business since the Town announced last year it wanted to bring that rate in line with the practices in other municipalities.
Mayor Larry Cross argued Tuesday night there are a few international trade agreements in the works that could adversely impact these local industries. He then asked council to approve a two-year moritorium on any discussion of the rate standardization matter.
Noting he had suggestions of other cuts in the budget to help offset that loss of tax revenue, Councillor Mervyn Lougher-Goodey said he would support the moritorium.
Coun. Tim Chad said he couldn’t do so if that meant the residential taxpayers would bear the brunt of the decision.
Coun. Steve Price argued strongly in favour of completing the entire Bowerbank traffic calming project and not cutting it in half. He argued that with the East Shore Village development completed in the area, traffic will increase.
“This is a project that we decided needed to be done,” he said, noting residents there had petitioned council on the matter.
“I don’t think we need to backtrack on this one.”
Price was the only holdout, however, as council agreed to complete one roundabout at one end of Bowerbank, see how it takes, and then consider the second in 2015.
Up for discussion but surviving council’s chopping block were:
• $7,500 needed to top up the economic development fund to $60,000.
• An increased fund to allow councillors to go to more conventions ($6,000).
• The Highway 17 overpass project.