‘Good news’ bud­get

Valley Journal Advertiser - - COVER STORY -

in stone yet, with West Hants coun­cil still need­ing to ap­prove them. How­ever, chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer Louis Coutinho felt con­fi­dent it will go ahead.

If it doesn’t go through, Coutinho said the town still has a healthy op­er­a­tional re­serve it can draw on if needed.

The town is not set­ting aside any money to­wards the re­serve fund this year, but if there is a year-end sur­plus, that money would go into the re­serve.

Tough bud­get

Wind­sor Mayor Anna Allen said early on that this was one of the tough­est bud­gets coun­cil has had to deal with.

“We’ve heard for a long time that our tax rates are too high and we know that,” Allen said. “We get an aw­ful lot of ser­vice for that tax rate, but still, peo­ple find it’s too high.”

A new pub­lic works truck and loader was ap­proved, but some items had to be de­layed, in­clud­ing main­te­nance work to the town’s util­ity shed.

The Wind­sor Fire Depart­ment is in the mid­dle of a tran­si­tion, low­er­ing their num­ber of vol­un­teers and sur­plus ve­hi­cles, which will bring down costs now that they ex­clu­sively cover the town lim­its.

The town is also brac­ing for po­ten­tial cost in­creases from the RCMP with the pos­si­ble union­iza­tion of the fed­eral po­lice force.

Sev­eral ma­jor projects are also im­pact­ing the town cof­fers, al­beit with a lot of as­sis­tance from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments. The ‘Big Dig’ on Ger­rish Street, which will re­place all un­der and above ground in­fra­struc­ture along Wind­sor’s main com­mer­cial thor­ough­fare, car­ries a price tag of more than $1 mil­lion, with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment tak­ing care of 50 per cent of those costs. The town is pay­ing its por­tion through the re­serve fund.

Wind­sor will also pay off the new waste­water treat­ment plant in this bud­get.

The town’s debt ser­vice ra­tio – a tool used by the prov­ince to mon­i­tor mu­nic­i­pal unit bor­row­ing – is slightly un­der 14 per cent and ap­proach­ing 15 per cent, which means the town’s spend­ing may be un­der more scru­tiny if it reaches that point.

“We went from 7.8 to this be­cause we’ve got a large amount of bor­row­ing and the prov­ince does this to make sure that when towns and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties are bor­row­ing money, that there’s a good rea­son for it,” Coutinho said.

Hav­ing a few new items, in­clud­ing fund­ing set aside for a dog park, main­tain­ing ser­vice lev­els and keep­ing the tax rate steady, makes for a “good news” bud­get, he added.

Coun. Shel­ley Bibby was frus- trated that the town couldn’t find fund­ing to hire a com­mu­ni­ca­tions per­son – some­thing she thinks Wind­sor needs.

“I think that a lot of peo­ple feel like we are not com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them as well as we could or that they have a way to com­mu­ni­cate with us,” Bibby said after the bud­get was passed.

Ini­tially, $45,000 was set-aside for a com­mu­ni­ca­tions staffer, but dur­ing bud­get dis­cus­sions, coun­cil agreed it was a want, not a need.

Coun. Jim Ivey said he was pleased they were able to hold the tax rate steady, de­spite some of the tough choices that had to be made to get to that point.

“If we’re able to keep it there and not let it go up, that’s a step in the right di­rec­tion,” Ivey said. “Maybe a year from now we’ll find other strate­gies that will as­sist us in low­er­ing costs or find­ing other sources of rev­enues to bal­ance things out.”

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