The Town of Bonavista has approved their annual municipal operating budget after holding a public consultation in November with local residents.
Bonavista Mayor John Norman told The Packet he was pleased with the turnout and engagement at the public meeting.
He says about two dozen people attended the meeting with questions and concerns ranging from roadwork to property tax.
Norman says, in their upcoming budget, they have increased revenue and will up the expenditures for roadwork in the community by about 10 per cent, as well as the operating budget for the local fire department by almost 20 per cent.
“We just had our accountant and our auditor in, and we’re in one of the strongest financial situations in any community on the island,” said Norman.
Regarding residential taxes, while property values have been climbing, the town decided to keep the mill rate as is. This is mainly because they have dropped the mill rate on two different occasions in recent years and Norman says the mill rate is relatively low as is.
“You can’t forever and a day drop (mill rates) and see no increase in revenue … what people are sitting on now in Bonavista are assets that are worth more than they were five or 10 years ago,” he said. “And the same goes for commercial.”
He added that property value increases are predicted to be slow in the coming year.
“We do try to remind people that an increase in residential real estate values right now, as long as it’s manageable … that is an indicator of confidence in the market, confidence in the community and — where Newfoundland is right now, fiscally, and where a lot of municipalities are and the challenges they’re facing — I think it’s a good thing,” he noted.
Another topic discussed at the consultation included detailing the operating grant the town contributes to Cabot Stadium, Garrick Theatre, Bonavista Museum and Archive, Tip-A-Vista Wellness Committee and Matthew Legacy — totalling hundreds of thousands of dollars in support.
Norman says they aren’t running deficits at the theatre or stadium, and these types of facilities are essential parts of a cohesive town.
“It’s for the greater good of the community,” he said. “This all adds to the lifestyle and marketability of Bonavista. And that marketability plays majorly into our revenue over time.”
With the increase in property tax (as a result of higher property values) for the town, along with business tax growth, Norman says this provides flexibility for their financials.
He says their balanced budget including capital works is at about $4.6 million and he’d like to see growth as high as $5 million by budget 2021 as a goal.
Norman says he liked the interest from residents and is glad to see the questions asked, no matter if they are positive or negative.
“We are very pleased with community engagement,” he said. “Year over year it seems to be steady.”
When the final budget documents are released, The Packet will publish further details on the revenue and expenditures for the Town of Bonavista.