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Richmond County considers property tax rebate for low-income homeowners

Richmond County Coun. Brent Sampson says low-income homeowners need access to a rebate on their property taxes similar to what is offered by other municipalities in Nova Scotia. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)
Richmond County Coun. Brent Sampson says low-income homeowners need access to a rebate on their property taxes similar to what is offered by other municipalities in Nova Scotia. (Tom Ayers/CBC - image credit)

Low-income homeowners in Richmond County may get a break on their municipal property taxes in the coming year, similar to one that's available to property owners in other Nova Scotia municipalities.

Richmond County does not have a rebate program, and council has asked for a staff report on the idea after Coun. Brent Sampson said residents are increasingly worried about rising property values and the cost of groceries and home heating.

"Part of my thought process here was looking around and seeing that between those types of issues and inflation, there's some people that are really struggling and it's not really getting better and what can we do as a municipality?" he said. "What tools do we have at our disposal to try and help out?"

The province offers a rebate of 50 per cent on municipal taxes up to $800, but it only applies to low-income seniors who qualify.

Sampson said Richmond County should also offer a rebate, even if it's less than what the province provides.

"There's a lot of people out there that are struggling at the moment and they may not fall under that program, so I was hoping this would be able to capture a lot more people," he said.

Other municipalities offer rebates

"It's not going to cover ... 100 per cent of it, but I think any bit is going to help, especially with what we've seen lately in the last couple of years."

A staff report on how a rebate could work in Richmond County should be ready in a couple of months when councillors begin budget talks, Sampson said.

All of the other municipalities on Cape Breton Island offer a rebate.

Cape Breton Regional Municipality provides $300 for those with a household income less than $35,000.

Victoria County offers $300, also for those whose income is under $35,000.

In the Town of Port Hawkesbury, residential property owners with an income under $23,000 can get $200.

Inverness County offers $150 for household incomes under $25,000.

Chief administrative officer Leanne MacEachen said the rebate program cost Victoria County about $22,000 last year, which was up a bit from the $20,000 it cost the year before that.

Victoria County chief administrative officer Leanne MacEachen says the rebate program is a small portion of the overall budget, but it's important.
Victoria County chief administrative officer Leanne MacEachen says the rebate program is a small portion of the overall budget, but it's important.

Victoria County chief administrative officer Leanne MacEachen says the rebate program is a small portion of the overall budget, but it's important. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

In contrast, CBRM set aside $740,000 for its rebate program in the last year.

The rebate is a small portion of Victoria County's overall budget, but MacEachen said it's important. "It is because we know that people are feeling the crunch of everything rising."

Victoria County's rebate program is now closed, but it will likely be offered again in the coming year, assuming councillors approve it in the new budget, she said.

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