No tax in­creases in Har­bour Grace

Res­i­dents who pay early will see re­duc­tion in dis­count rate

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

Dis­count re­duced

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.

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