No tax increases in Harbour Grace
Residents who pay early will see reduction in discount rate
The Town of Harbour Grace has managed to balance its municipal operating budget for 2012 without having to increase taxes. Council adopted its latest budget during a Dec. 5 meeting.
On the revenue side of the ledger, council expects to take in some $ 2,591,619 to operate the town of approximately 3,000 people.
That’s only $2,355 more than the budget for 2011, which came in at $2,589,264, according to town manager Lester Forward.
“There’s not a lot of difference from last year,” Forward said, pointing out, “there are no increases in taxes or fees for service in 2012.
He said the only minor change is a small adjustment in the percentage of discount offered to taxpayers who have their taxes paid in full by the end of February.
That tax break has now been reduced from five to four per cent.
Forward said it means, for example, those who would have saved $ 50 on their tax bill, will now save $40.
The tax break serves as an incentive for people to pay their taxes early, the town manager explained, adding, “it is treated as an expenditure. And last year it cost us (town) $58,000.”
While there is no increase in revenue to the town, Forward noted, “our expenses are increasing, and we had to trim everything right down to the discounts.”
Taxes and fees for service are the only means municipalities have for generating revenue, aside from municipal operating grants (MOGS) from the province.
Harbour Grace will receive an MOG of $203,360 in 2012, according to the town manager.
Meanwhile, Forward said the small reduction in the discount “is just one way of trying to trim our expenditures without having to increase taxes.”
Pointing out there are “no service cuts or anything like that,” he said, “we just tightened up on our expenditures, and one of the most obvious ways was the reduction in the discount.”
Describing 2011 as an “excellent collection year,” Forward said collections have really improved since council staff have been taking steps to collect current taxes before they go into arrears.
“We had something like 67 or 68 per cent of taxes paid in full by the end of February this year (2011),” he said.
The town manager said it really helps when staff don’t have to be sending out reminders and following up with phone calls in an effort to collect taxes.
“Uncollected taxes become an expenditure for all the other taxpayers who have paid their dues,” he said.
“The incentive, combined with the efforts of staff to collect taxes, are paying off, but we still look for ways to improve.”
By the end of the month the town’s balanced budget will be submitted to Municipal Affairs for approval.
Members of the Harbour Grace town council are shown discussing an issue during a November meeting. From left, councillors Joan Short and Wendell Hunt, deputy mayor Terry Barnes, secretary/accounts receivable Linda Chafe, Mayor Don Coombs, town manager Lester Forward, and councillors Walter Walsh and and Albert “Bud” Chafe. Missing from photo is Coun. David Murphy.