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Taxes rising although city spending dips
The expense of day-to-day operations is on the rise at Terrace city hall, but overall spending is slightly down because the city is spending less on capital projects.
The 2014 preliminary budget shows that while operations costs are rising in six of the city’s main departments compared to last year, the amount of money the city is putting into capital expenditures, such as roads, is down.
Total city spending is projected to be $21,739,107 this year, a slight drop from the $21,818,564 spent in 2013.
Though a rise in overall expenses is happening in the public works, development services, leisure services, transit, fire department and RCMP departments investment in capital projects is projected to drop from $5,010,400 in 2013 to $3,566,800 this year.
Despite the overall drop in spending from 2013 to what’s projected this year, property taxes are rising an average of two per cent.
City finance director Ron Bowles said the city has cut its capital spending forecast this year because of the large sums it spent on roads in past years.
Financing that work was done partially by borrowing, he said.
“We don’t raise and lower taxes with costs. The reason costs go up some years and down others is because we do something extraordinary,” Bowles said. “For a couple years we were really aggressive on road overlays and we did some internal borrowing, so that’s why the expenses went up.”
Total amount levied in taxes will total $12,719,876 in 2014 compared to $12,396,951 in 2013, a two per cent increase.
In terms of operations expenses, the largest increase is happening in the public works department which is seeing a 5.3 per cent increase, as well as rises of 0.8 per cent for sewer and water operations.
Total operations costs for public works is $2,967,233 compared to $2,818,011 in 2013.
After taxes, the next greatest source of revenue is grants followed by fees and charges.
General government services will cost $1,658,028, up from 1,610,556, which is a 2.9 per cent increase.
Spending in this department includes $12,000 for the upcoming November municipal election this fall and $75,000 set aside to potentially spend on the revenue-sharing effort to negotiate a deal with the province for it to share revenues from large industrial projects in the region.
Terrace is one of several municipalities in the region concerned that an influx of people, should there be large scale industrial development in the region, will strain existing city services.
The total cost of wages for city staff is projected to be $7.41 million. The last available year for comparison is 2012, when $7.061 million went to wages and other employment-related costs.
The most recent numbers for pension totals paid for employees are $547,000 for 2013, which is a preliminary figure, and $524,978 for 2012.
Transit costs have also risen 3.1 per cent to $593,000 compared to $575,000 in 2013.
The city’s share of the RCMP’s contract is going to cost $2,716,576 compared to $2,699,280 and operations will be $973,599 compared to $957,833 last year. Some civilian employees at the detachment are the entire financial responsibility of the city.
Fire departments operations will cost 3.1 per cent more this year, rising from $1,683,407 to $1,735,898.
The operations cost of leisure services is also rising, 2.4 per cent from $2,560,919 to $2,621,955.
Leisure services budget items for the coming year include $318,500 for continuing upgrades to the aquatic centre with $170,000 of that going to rebuilding the aquatic centre’s west wall.
Also planned is $22,000 worth of work for Heritage Park.
Capital projects include a signal light on Frank St. which, while being cost shared with the province, will cost the city approximately $190,000.
The city will also spend $138,000 to continue a series of renovations at city hall and $50,000 to finish off an extension to the Grand Trunk Pathway. The largest capital expenditure being planned is rebuilding Graham Ave. on the Southside from Kalum to Eby. That has a budgeted figure of $1.425 million.
The city is hosting an open house on March 10 at city hall for residents to learn more.