HAPPY VALLEY-GOOSE BAY, N.L.
The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay brought down the largest budget in its 25-year history on Dec. 13.
The municipal budget, totalling just over $36.5 million, is over $13 million higher than the 2018 budget, largely due to the Labrador Wellness Centre.
Almost half of the 2019 budget, $16 million, is earmarked for the facility which has construction slated to begin this spring. According to the town, over $12 million of the project cost will come from federal and provincial government contributions and HST rebate, with $4 million being the towns share.
Mayor Wally Andersen said he’s confident the town can come up with its portion through a capital campaign.
“We’re confident at the end of the day we can put up this building, at a cost of roughly $26 million, without our town council having to go back to the residents and having to take money from the town to pay for it,” Andersen said. “We’re confident of that moving forward.”
There will be no increase in water and sewer rates, property tax mill rates on commercial and residential properties or in business tax mill rates. There’s also no changes to recreational fees, equipment rates, tipping fees, permits or animal control fees.
There is a new business tax category for not for profit organizations, which in the 2019 budget is set at eight mills. Deputy Mayor Bert Pomeroy said it will actually translate to a reduction in taxes for some not for profits. Some not for profits, such as churches, are exempt from municipal taxes but not for profits that do not qualify for an exemption do have to pay taxes.
“It does provide overall for those not for profits an actual reduction in taxes,” he said. “They would still have to apply, those that able to receive an exemption. Those that do not receive an exemption will actually see a reduction in their tax bill this year.”
Sand removal was also highlighted in the budget in the form of investment in the town’s fleet of vehicles. The town will be purchasing new vehicles to minimize the impact of sand on resident’s properties and updating other vehicles in their fleet.
“We listened to the people and we know that there’s concerns with sand,” Andersen said. “We’re looking at ways to get rid of some of the sand as the spring thaw starts and we’re looking at equipment people can use to clean their lawns and council is looking to purchase a truck similar to what some other municipalities have.
“So instead of us going down and just sweeping the sidewalks and sweeping the roads and sand blowing everywhere, this truck will suck it up and we can take it and dump it elsewhere.”
Andersen said almost half of the vehicles in the town fleet are 2003 or older. Council is bringing in a policy to begin to replace some of these vehicles each year. He said some of the current vehicles cost more to repair than they’re worth, so it will translate into savings for taxpayers over the long term.
Some other budget highlights are $1.9 million for roadwork, a pilot project for a seasonal animal control officer, and walking trail improvements. The property tax low income relief policy will be continued as well.