The mil rate debate

Kim Peddle
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Port aux Basques Mayor Brian Button said lowering the mil rate would probably have been the popular thing to do, but council felt that it was not the responsible thing to do.

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He was responding to concerns raised by citizens regarding council's decision to keep the mil rate at 10 for 2013.

"We have incurred this issue in the past, where we have jumped the gun and decreased the mil rate, only to end up paying the price at the end of the year," he said.

Mayor Button said that council didn't want the town to fall into the same problem where they were looking for money later.

"When tight budgets are made and then things go wrong, or you need to pay for maintenance - you need the money. When you are short, you end up needing to cut, cut cut when you don't have the money set aside, and that's what we are trying to prevent."

The mayor pointed to the boardwalk as an example. The money to put in the boardwalk came from the government through the JCP grants. Once the boardwalk was built, however, it became the town's responsibility to maintain it.

"I can come up with lots of examples of services for the town that require the money. The new waste management strategy, for example, will provide an improved service to the town, but it costs money to implement and maintain it."

The mayor hopes that citizens will see the reasoning behind council's decision and that people with concerns will feel free to come forward to him to voice any concerns or questions. He stated that his office maintains an open door policy and he welcomes anyone to come in at any time.

Representatives such as Suzanne Ingram of the Gateway Women's Centre have come forward to voice concerns on behalf of her clients.

She hears her clients expressing concern for affordable housing and feels that the mil rate could add to hardships for many families.

"I'm speaking on behalf of the clients I see at the Women's Centre. Rent increases are a big concern. All costs have gone up, such as electricity, groceries and such," she said.

"We have met with council in the past and have expressed the need for more affordable housing in Port aux Basques, but I wanted to say something here as an advocate for women in the area."

Button stated that as the town grows, more services are needed, such as road paving, street lighting, garbage removal, sidewalk maintenance and water and sewer services. This adds to the need to maintain current services as well.

"Services for the town are increasing and the costs for these services are increasing as well. For example, it cost $70,000 for street lighting last year. Newfoundland Power has proposed a rate increase for this coming year as well, and we have to take that into account."

This year is also an election year and Button notes that it costs money to carry out an election.

Button noted that possibly next year the new council may be able to look at lowering the mil rate as a result of the decisions made by this year's council. He also said that this depends on having nothing major happen, such as major weather events that could blow the snow clearing budget.

Organizations: Gateway Women, Newfoundland Power

Geographic location: Port aux Basques

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