MODG hikes taxes by 5¢ in response to Sable project wrap up

By Helen Murphy    

GUYSBOROUGH – Ratepayers in the Municipality of the District of Guysborough will see their tax rate go up by five cents -- to 66 cents per $100 of residential assessment -- for the first time in eight years. The tax increase was approved with a six-to-two vote at council's regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 21. The commercial rate has also increased by five cents to $2.63 per $100 of assessment.

The increase is part of MODG's strategy to compensate for commercial tax revenues being lost as the Sable Offshore Energy Project in Goldboro wraps up.

"We think we've come up with the best scenario to address this without putting undue hardship on any one group," Warden Vernon Pitts told The Journal. Council also cut grants to community groups by 25 per cent to help address the shortfall.

But the warden noted that funding to GOALS has not been cut, a commitment to the fundraising campaign at St. Martha's Regional Hospital will be honoured, and the grant to Canso and Area Arena will not change.

He said council could have made up for the Sable revenue from its reserves, "but then what are you going to do next year?"

Major investment decisions are scheduled to be made this year for industrial projects including the $10 billion (US) Goldboro LNG project, that could change the revenue situation in future years. But council is not banking on revenues that aren't certain now.

Pitts said MODG has "some good financial heads" around the table and "we came up with the plan together... I'm optimistic about the plan."

Councillors Finn Armsworthy, District 8, and Janet Peitzsche, District 5, were the dissenting votes.

In an interview, Armsworthy told The Journal he remains disappointed that the higher residential tax rate for residents of the former Town of Canso has not been addressed in the five years since amalgamation.

"I thought council would be able to drop our taxes over that time," he said. "But nothing has been done about it."

Armsworthy said the higher tax rate has been the top municipal issue for his constituents "since day one."

When asked about Armsworthy's complaint, Warden Pitts said Canso residents are required to pay for services such as water, sewer and sidewalks just like any other area of MODG that has these kinds of services. He added that MODG has communicated the details behind the rate for residents in the former Town of Canso numerous times, including distributing flyers to each household on the topic.

"Finn knows better than to keep raising this," he said.