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Port aux Basques council delivers 2018 budget

Mayor John Spencer presented Councillor Jerome Battiste with the Long Service Award for his 12 years of service to Channel-Port aux Basques.
Mayor John Spencer presented Councillor Jerome Battiste with the Long Service Award for his 12 years of service to Channel-Port aux Basques. - Rosalyn Roy

Despite the attention focused on the recent change to the Bruce II registration system, there was no mention of it at the town council meeting held on Wednesday evening, Jan. 31.
Council focused instead on finalizing its 2018 budget and discussed upcoming plans for its new municipal garage and an application for affordable housing.

Application for low-income affordable housing

Council voted unanimously to hire CMG Consulting Services in Bishop’s Falls to finalize an application through the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation for funding to build 10 affordable housing units. The deadline for the application is Feb. 28 and will cost $9,660 to complete.

To qualify for rental a family’s total household income must be $32,500 or less, making the units particularly attractive to seniors on a fixed income. Although council has decided on a location, it is not ready to disclose it unless the application is approved. If successful, construction will begin before the end of the year.

The initiative is also available online for private sector funding, and council has even reached out to some entrepreneurs to advise them about it. Council stressed the town’s proposed units are not meant to compete with private enterprises looking to build affordable housing in the area.

“Ours is not for profit,” said town manager Leon MacIsaac. “Theirs would be for profit.”

Come Home Year 2015

Council unanimously adopted the financial statement for Come Home Year 2015 and praised the committee and particularly its chairperson, Cathy Lomond, for a great success.
The committee reported $167,127 in revenues but only $157,581 in expenditures. The auditor and council approved utilizing the remaining $9,545 to help the new 2020 Come Home Year Committee cover start-up costs such as contracting musicians, which must be done a year or two beforehand.

Dates for the 2020 Come Home Year have not yet been finalized, but typically the two-week celebration runs from the last week of July through the first week of August.

In addition to the surplus revenue, the 2015 Come Home Year Committee was able to donate $4,000 each to the following volunteer groups that lent assistance: the Port aux Basques Volunteer Fire Department, Port aux Basques Minor Hockey Association, Port aux Basques Figure Skating Club, Port aux Basques Piranhas, Lions Club and the LeGrow Health Centre Foundation.

“It’s tremendous when you see that kind of money going back to these volunteer organizations,” said Mayor John Spencer. “It was a Class A act.”

Recognition of service

Jerome Battiste received the Long Service Award from the Department of Municipal Awards after 12 years of serving on council.

“Your work is truly appreciated,” said Spencer.

2018 Budget

Council voted unanimously to adopt the proposed 2018 budget. As a new council, an extension until Jan. 31 was granted and council took advantage before submitting theirs to the Department of Municipal Affairs right at the deadline.

The adopted budget is balanced at $4,628,135.16.

General government was budgeted at $886,000. Transportation services, which include road repairs, came in at $1,137,277. Environmental health, which covers the water treatment plant, sewage and waste management, will cost $1,000,000.

That number includes garbage collection, which was projected to cost $330,640, but there is a caveat that tipping fees may alter that number once the new waste management station comes online in July.

Planning and development, which includes entertainment at Scott’s Cove, murals and other downtown beautification projects, was listed at $182,670.

Recreation and cultural services came in at $476,750 with most of that money going towards the Bruce II subsidy.

Loan repayments, provincial debt charges, and other fiscal matters were $768,734.

There are no increases to the mil rates.
The town has renewed its $400,000-line of credit at the Bank of Nova Scotia, and a $27,000-line of credit for the Bruce II Sports Centre account with the Bank of Montreal.

The town’s debt ratio rose slightly to 10 per cent, largely due to the cost of the new municipal garage. Construction in the Grand Bay West industrial park will begin in the mid to later part of the year.

Despite the increase the debt ratio is still well below the allowable standard of 30 per cent.

Spencer said council worked hard to avoid increasing taxes for residents.

“Balancing by dipping into the contingency fund was the right move. Port aux Basques taxpayers need a break,” he said.
“It is not easy to raise taxes. The challenge for our council in 2018 is to close the gap between spending and revenues. Many of our residents are on fixed incomes. The money is just not there.”

The full budget and a list of fees for 2018 will be made available on the town’s official website: www.portauxbasques.ca.

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