Hantsport eyes cuts in face of dramatic hit to tax roll
Town mayor doesn't want to raise taxes to make up shortfall
The local swimming pool and public transit are on the block as the Town of Hantsport copes with its eroding tax base.
"At this point, we're down to the bone," Hantsport mayor Rob Zwicker said.
The town presented potential cost saving measures at a public meeting last week. It needs to find $215,000 in savings in 2014 to make up for the closures of Fundy Gypsum in November 2011, and Minas Basin Pulp and Power in November 2012.
It’s been a dramatic hit to the tax roll, Zwicker said. He said the town has found two-thirds of the savings it needs, but is still $60,000 to $70,000 short.
The community lost its Mountie last year. Closing the town pool could save $25,000. Dropping Kings County public transit could save another $30,000. The town wants spending on its public library limited to a maximum of $8,500.
So far, Hantsport has managed to avoid raising taxes and the mayor wants to keep it that way.
"We don't want to price ourselves out of the market. We want Hantsport to continue to be a community where people want to live, raise their children," Zwicker said.
The owner of the local Home Hardware agrees.
"I think raising taxes is not a great idea," said Dena Miller.
"We're a small town and we’re trying to encourage people to come this way. We're looking for new ideas to bring people into the area, perhaps encourage more of a bedroom community."
The town is also considering becoming a village and amalgamating with other municipalities.
Zwicker believes the setback is temporary, pointing to the possibility of Minas Basin opening a biomass plant in Hantsport and the U.S. owners of Fundy Gypsum restarting its mothballed gypsum handling facility in the town.
In the meantime, the grim budget planning exercise for next spring continues.