Larger than expected growth in property assessments and a budget surplus could help Halifax regional councillors avoid a tax rate increase for the year ahead.
Chief financial officer Jane Fraser presented updated financial numbers to council’s budget committee on Wednesday. Fraser told councillors her office has now reviewed the final 2020 assessment numbers, and the municipality will receive $4.5 million more in property taxes in 2020-2021 than previously anticipated.
Councillors passed a motion earlier this month to limit property tax increases for the year ahead to 1.5% on the average bill — equal to $30 for the average residential property tax bill. Under that proposal, the residential tax rate, 0.815% in 2019-2020, would rise to 0.816%.
Fraser’s office is also projecting a $16.2 million budget surplus for 2019-2020, the fiscal year ending Mar. 31. That surplus is primarily due to higher than budgeted revenues from deed transfer tax, levied when property changes hands. Fraser’s presentation said compensation savings and investment income is also contributing to the surplus.
The extra cash means councillors have options coming into the final stretch of their budget deliberations.
They can now choose to reduce the residential and commercial tax rates, or keep them flat and pay for the growing list of unfunded items identified through the budget committee meetings — the budget parking lot.
The parking lot list sat at a total of $6.6 million Wednesday morning, with council expected to add to it through the day.
Nearly $5.3 million of that is made up of one-time capital costs, like $2 million for renovations to the Keshen Goodman Library and $2 million for downtown Dartmouth infrastructure renewal. Those costs can be paid using the one-time surplus money.
Councillors are expected to pick and choose from the list and decide how to fund the items during a meeting next month, finalizing the tax rate for the year ahead.