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Tax Rate Increases by One Cent – Investments in Community
Richmond County, NS – Richmond County Council approved its 2021/2022 budget at a Special Council meeting on June 2, 2021, resulting in a one cent tax increase and more investment in communities.
Highlights of the budget include an increase in mandatory contributions for services such as policing, education, and housing of over $120,000 on a budget that generates approximately $90,000 in revenue for every one cent of tax charged. This put significant pressure on Councillors and staff during a time when many residents are already suffering as a result of the impacts of the pandemic.
Throughout budget deliberations, Council discussed the importance of increasing investment in infrastructure reserves, staffing, and communities. However, with many residents facing a loss in income combined with rising costs related to housing, food, and heating/energy Council decided to postpone some of these investments for this year.
“We recognize that Richmond County has a high percentage of our population who are seniors faced with skyrocketing costs from food to house insurance during the pandemic – of course we’re concerned that they may have a limited ability to manage a higher tax hike at this time, and that impacts our ability to be an age friendly community. Our business community has struggled to adapt, and we can’t forget about our cultural sector, and the many rotational workers who have seen their ability to earn dry up almost completely. So, Council has taken an approach of making incremental increases in several areas to try to avoid a major increase in any one area. These are exceptional circumstances and exceptional times,” explained Warden Amanda Mombourquette.
The 2021/22 budget includes provision for several studies that Council determined were priority investments. These include a refresh of the Strategic Plan, an assessment of the former school in Evanston, a trails study, an accessibility study, a leachate study, and an inflow and outflow study for the Petit de Grat sewer system. These investments will be catalysts for economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental responsibility.
Last year, Richmond County Council had taken an approach of making strategic investments decided at budget time in specific initiatives and community groups in areas such as health and transit. COVID-19 has changed the non-profit landscape dramatically and many community groups have had little to no ability to raise funds for an extended period of time – a situation that no one could have predicted at the onset of the pandemic. In response, this budget builds on the work of the previous Council by increasing investments for non-profits by approximately $100,000 in a combination of funds set aside for future grant applications and specific strategic investments in organizations such as Cape Breton South Recruiting for Health, Senior Safety Coordinator, Strait Area Transit, local museums, food banks, and several others.
“This budget had to be very focused on providing support where it’s needed most. It results in staff and Council standing in solidarity with constituents to keep the tax rate increase to a minimum,” noted Mombourquette with regards to the elimination of both the planned cost-of-living increase and the technology allowance for Council, and a reduction in planned increases for staff. “I know how hard our Councillors and staff have been working, so this has been an extremely difficult decision to reach. Staff in particular have ensured the continuity of municipal operations during the pandemic, and we all appreciate their effort. At the same time, it’s important that we pass a budget that builds trust in our municipal government - that we really are in this together,” she explained.
Overall, Richmond County passed a balanced budget of $14.1 million at the June 2nd Special Council Meeting, with an increase in revenues and expenditures over last year’s budget of just over $400,000.
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Warden Amanda Mombourquette