CBRM council approves residential, commercial tax rate cut of 5%
Mayor Amanda McDougall says tax cut is first reduction of tax rate since CBRM amalgamation in 1995
Residential and commercial property owners in Cape Breton Regional Municipality are getting a break on their taxes this year.
Mayor Amanda McDougall said a five per cent cut in the tax rate is the first reduction since CBRM's amalgamation in 1995 and it will be done without cutting services or staff.
Some councillors questioned the wisdom of cutting taxes across the board, arguing for targeted reductions that would benefit people who need it most.
But Nova Scotia municipalities are constrained by provincial legislation, McDougall said, so council voted to increase the property tax rebate for low-income homeowners and raised the ceiling to qualify.
"I think this is the most important part for me and part of the reason why I voted against the five per cent decrease initially," she said. "That low-income tax rebate program, that to me is the impact."
The rebate was $250 and was available to homeowners making $25,000 a year or less.
After much debate, councillors pushed for increases as a way to help those who need it.
The budget was finalized Tuesday, including a rebate of $300 for those who apply, which will be available for property owners making $35,000 a year or less.
CBRM's revenues are up about 2.5 per cent this year and council is spending an additional $15 million it received from the province for its municipal capacity grant, also known as equalization funding.
Some of that new money will go toward the municipality's debt and the rest is being sprinkled over several capital projects.
But to cover the lost revenue from the tax cut, council had to trim some proposed spending.
"The majority of that covering, I guess you could call it, is really deferring funding and projects," said McDougall.
"It's not nixing them, necessarily. It's just pushing them off till another budget year."
Plans to spend on renovation and expansion of the Centre 200 arena, funding for a new library and some road paving were scaled back as a result.
Council also deferred the purchase of a fire truck for the hazardous materials unit and put off improvements to the Port of Sydney Development Corporation's Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion.
Some of that funding was being earmarked this year, but would not necessarily have been spent this year anyway, the mayor said.
Deputy Mayor Earlene MacMullin told council the deferrals do not mean work is not getting done.
CBRM is spending more than it ever has and is just spreading out new work over several years.
"We're actually in a better position now than we've ever been," MacMullin said.
"I come out of this budget feeling great, because we have money in places last year, I did not expect to have."
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