By Richard Bell
The long-running saga of Musquodoboit Harbour’s local area rate tax has taken another twist. HRM has given the community a year for a local organization to come up with a business plan for managing the funds, or HRM will kill the tax.
The tax appears on property tax bills under the name, “Musquodoboit Hbr Common Rec.” The rate is a very low half-penny per $100 ($0.005), bringing in about $10,000 a year. The rate was established in the late 1980s by Halifax County to pay for community recreation needs.
In the meantime, all requests for spending from this fund go to District 2 Councillor David Hendsbee, who decides which requests to put before the Harbour East—Marine Drive Community Council or HRM Regional Council for approval.
After the most recent round of requests, there is now $337 left in the local area rate account. The money went to:
$7000 for the baseball fields in Musquodoboit Harbour, to pay for portable pitching mounds, foul ball netting, and storage containers;
$2000 for the 2nd phase of the MH Chamber of Commerce’s water quality testing program;
$5000 to Eastern Shore Minor Hockey for ice divider boards;
$25,000 to the MH Chamber to match a $25,000 grant from the Department of Municipal Affairs for a streetscape beautification program including pole banners, new way finding signage, fruit trees and bushes, and planters.
Hendsbee told the Cooperator that he planned to ask the MH Chamber of Commerce to take the lead on collaborating with other local groups on a consultation process about managing the area rate, including groups that have used the fund in the past, or might do so in the future
Hendsbee also speculated that if long-running efforts to secure sidewalks through the core of Musquodoboit Harbour were successful, keeping the local area rate alive could eventually provide the necessary funds for maintaining the sidewalks.
“To get sidewalks, a community has to come up with a local contribution to the capital investment,” Hendsbee said. “And the community is also responsible for raising the funds to maintain the sidewalks, and for snow removal. Sheet Harbour just put a three-tiered tax in place for their sidewalks. What you pay depends on how far away from the core of Sheet Harbour.”
Hendsbee said that it might be possible to transform the existing Musquodoboit local area rate to pay for sidewalk expenses in the future. Depending on the cost, he said that it might be necessary to increase the rate. Additional funds could come from expanding the size of the catchment basin to include other nearby communities.
“Musquodoboit Harbour has been identified as an institutional service center for the Eastern Shore,” Hendsbee said. “But there would normally have to be a plebiscite before people outside the existing catchment area would be charged this sidewalk tax.”