Colchester County Council successfully approved its 2022/23 operating budget last evening with no increases to the residential or commercial tax rates. This is the fourth year of the last five that the Municipality has been able to hold the line on its rates, with just a half cent increase in 2019.
“The cost of living has been rising at an alarming rate. Council is aware of the financial pressure this has been putting on our residents. Although our Municipality is facing similar rising costs, we were determined to do our best to avoid an increase in our tax rates. I am pleased to announce that we achieved just that,” said Christine Blair, Mayor of the Municipality of Colchester.
The Municipality prides itself on delivering a high level of service to residents while maintaining one of the lowest municipal tax rates in the province. Calculated spending, investment in contingency reserve funds, and long-term forecasting have all contributed to the Municipality’s stable financial position.
In addition to careful spending, this year’s $35 Million budget continues to invest in critical infrastructure and economic development initiatives in the County including rural broadband internet, Debert Business Park and Airport, Fundy Discovery Site, the Cliffs of Fundy UNESCO Global Geopark and other partnerships such as the Truro Colchester Partnership for Economic Prosperity (TCPEP) and the Rath Eastlink Community Centre.
Funding to support the repaving of deteriorating, Provincially-owned J-class roads (subdivision roads built prior to 1995) in the county was not included in this year’s budget. Despite generating significant debate, most of Council were opposed to paying to help fix roads not owned by the Municipality, holding firm to the point that roads owned by the Province should be the sole responsibility of the Province.
With an emissions target of net zero by 2050, the Municipality will continue to lead environmental change by investing in its recently adopted Carbon-Free Colchester Plan including initiatives such as Cozy Colchester and Solar Colchester that offer residents interest-free loan programs to increase home energy efficiency.
Numerous community organizations will also receive support through the County’s extensive not-for-profit grant programs. “It is rewarding to support the many community groups providing such important services and facilities across our Municipality. This support is especially needed as organizations aim to bounce back from the challenges of the past two years,” remarked Mayor Blair.
Each year the County’s operating budget is set within a context of competing needs, requests, opportunities, and anticipated revenues. Some costs and revenue streams are not within the Municipality’s control. Over 44% of taxes collected by the Municipality are transferred to the Provincial Government for services such as schools, housing, libraries, assessment services, corrections, and policing.
Policing costs to the Municipality alone went up 11.04% contributing to the total 5.4% increase in required mandatory payments to the Province, which totaled $15.68 Million. Such rising costs made the budgeting process even more demanding this year.
Colchester County Council remains optimistic about the municipality’s future with much to look forward to in the year ahead.