The Municipality of Cumberland approved a $36.4 million operating budget at a special virtual meeting held today (Friday, May 26, 2023).
The municipality is facing significantly increased costs in the coming fiscal year. The recently awarded solid waste curbside collection contract is estimated to cost $544,000 more than last year. Costs for mandatory contributions to education are up $323,000, RCMP policing costs are up $312,000, insurance is estimated to increase by almost $190,000 and salaries and benefits are estimated to cost $634,000 more than last year.
The municipality is continuing to move forward with reforms to the fire service in the County, in the wake of the Gaudrealt report. While some additional wage costs are budgeted for the last quarter of the year to address management and administration in the fire service, the biggest investment on the operating side of the ledger is a transfer of more than $400,000 to reserves to address future capital investment in fire apparatus and buildings. The county is served by 16 volunteer fire departments in 18 locations, housing almost 90 emergency/fire vehicle vehicles. The municipality provides capital and operating support to each department.
Of the over $36 million in operating expenditures, more than $12 million are costs mandated by the Province of Nova Scotia, which the municipality simply sends a cheque to the province for. Mandatory contributions to education, corrections, housing, policing and assessment amount to about a third of the operating budget.
While property assessments were up this year significantly, on average about 12 percent, cost pressures made this year’s budget process a difficult one. Recognizing that rising assessments add to the tax burden for taxpayers, council approved a decrease in the general residential rate of three cents, from $1.17 to $1.14 per $100 of assessment and a decrease in the general commercial rate of five cents, from $ 2.71 per $100 of assessment. Deed transfer tax rates remain the same as do the area rates in the communities of Springhill and Parrsboro, where taxpayers remain responsible for street and sidewalk maintenance, stormwater management and streetlights.
“We understand the pressures being faced by our taxpayers, through additional costs for oil, gas and food, so we did everything we could to lower the residential and commercial tax rates, but we want people to understand as well that the expenses of the municipality also went up about $2 million this year,” Municipality of Cumberland Mayor Murray Scott said.“Policing, insurance, employee wages, solid waste and mandatory transfers are all seeing increased costs. Based on that we had to try to find some efficiencies while working to lower the tax rate. Council was very responsible trying to protect the taxpayers as best we could and continue to provide services. It’s about finding the right balance.”
Council also approved a general and water capital budget of $21.6 million. The biggest single project is the rehabilitation of Junction Road in Springhill at a cost of more than $7.6 million with over $3 million of the bill being funded from reserves generated from the Springhill area rate and water utility and over $3 million from the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program (ICIP). A waterline replacement, along with paving Athol Road from McGee Street to the former town boundary will cost about $2.5 million. The Athol Road project is receiving about $1 million from the ICIP with the balance coming from water utility funds.
The municipality is investing another $400,000 to provide bunker gear, breathing apparatus and radios for County fire departments, $1,500,000 has been set aside to purchase fire apparatus (vehicles) and $2.4 million has been earmarked from gas tax funds for the replacement of fire halls in Springhill and Parrsboro as the municipality moves forward with the hub model of providing fire services.
More details on both the operating and capital budgets will be available on our website.