TIGNISH -- The Community of Tignish is holding the line on municipal taxation, at least for now. Finance committee chair Edward Gallant introduced a balanced budget during the 2013 annual ratepayers’ meeting Tuesday night, but he used $15,000 from surplus funds to accomplish that.
Expenses for the year are projected to be $513,360. Gallant expects the municipality will bring in $215,860 through taxation. The tax rate is pegged at 57 cents per $100 assessment for residential property and a dollar for commercial property. Assessed property values in Tignish are around $27 million residential and seven million commercial.
Councilors and residents agreed there is potential that the tax rate would have to increase if Tignish honours a request to keep some of the sidewalks in the community clear of ice and snow next winter. Street committee chair Joey Carragher is still gathering information on what it would cost to start and maintain the service, but he told the 21 residents in attendance for the meeting that a starting figure could be in the $60,000 range for equipment and preparation expense. Some guardrails, guide wires and sidewalk levelling would be required.
Gallant reported a $60,000 cost might mean a three cent increase in taxes. A property owner paying $1,000 in municipal taxes would see an increase of around $52.
Resident Jenny Matthews presented a 160-name petition calling on Council to take a serious look at adding sidewalk clearing to its budget. Upon receiving the petition, council chair Alan McInnis added his signature to it, but stressed much more consideration and homework has to be done before a decision is made.
“As residents we do not want to see taxes increased,” Matthews read from her presentation, “but if that is what it will take to see this project complete we would like enough information provided so that residents can make an informed choice.” She went on to list the avenues council might consider for keeping the costs down.
Several residents spoke in favour of sidewalk-clearing, but some did so with the proviso that their taxes not increase. Another sought assurances that a yes decision not result in residents being responsible for the sidewalk in front of their properties.
Matthews said getting the main arteries cleared would be a good starting point. “My main concern is safety,” she said following the meeting, “but health certainly factors into that, as well.”
In seeking signatures to the petition, Matthews said she only encountered one refusal. “We actually talked to residents of all demographics, of all ages, to see, if they were using the sidewalks, if they needed to use the sidewalks, just to get feedback on exactly how this would impact them.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback,” she reported
“I was quite surprised by the amount of citizens who said, if the sidewalks were cleared it would be worth a small tax increase, to them,” Matthews reflected. “They knew it was a possibility.”
During the meeting Matthews reminded councilors equipment for clearing sidewalks could be put to other uses, as well. She said the tractor that O’Leary uses to clear its sidewalks gets equipped with a mower attachment during the summer.
Chairman McInnis said council will continue to gather information and then convene a special meeting so that residents can have their say once all of the figures are known.