Council members are to start finalizing the city’s 2023 budget Feb. 27 which, so far, calls for a tax increase in the double digit range.
The projected hike of 10.33 per cent to the operations budget would nearly double last year’s boost of 5.52 per cent and ends years of what had been modest increases ranging from two to four per cent dating back to 2013. In two of those years, 2015 and 2016, there were no increases.
City finance officials presented council members with two categories of spending — the first requiring a 7.19 per cent considered “non-discretionary” and the second labelled “for consideration” that would amount to a further 3.15 per cent increase.
The 7.19 per cent planned hike alone would have owners of a home assessed at $400,000 paying $2,280.47 in municipal taxes this year, $152.97 more than in 2022.
The non-discretionary list includes a continuation of a 1 per cent extra tax that would raise $166,435 and be used to help replace the city’s aging infrastructure. This is the second year for the 1 per cent additional tax and it is forecast to be in place for more than 10 years.
Also on the non-discretionary list is a $249,793 in RCMP costs related to a new salary contract agreed to last year. In total, RCMP expenditures represent 20 per cent of the city’s operating budget or $5.223 million.
Public works consumes 18 per cent or $4.87 million and the fire department another 11 per cent or $2.770 million.
Contractual obligations for employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees come to $303,995 for wage increases.
Information presented to council indicates that the budget has increased significantly over the past several years through the hiring of two firefighters, one RCMP officer, a bylaw officer, a public works manager and an engineering technologist.
The “for consideration” expenditures list would see pavement patching increase by $25,000 or .15 per cent of the total planned budget along with modest staffing increases at the animal shelter and within the finance department.
But it also contains a suggested .56 per cent tax hike or $93,965 to cover an standard wage increase for senior non-unionized officials and a further $275,889 hike for senior officials representing a tax increase of 1.66 per cent.
That follows a city-commissioned review of what it pays managers compared to other local governments and is meant to match salaries paid elsewhere and to help recruit and retain senior personnel.
Should council accept the operations budget package as presented, the 10.33 per cent hike amounts to $1.719 million for a 2023 projected spending total of $26.5 million.
Taxpayers also face additional increases for water and sewer services that would amount to a three per cent bump in each area if approved by council.
Large scale projects such as roadworks and sewer and water line replacements are handled in a separate budget package and financed either through reserves built up the city over the years or grants applied for from senior governments.
This year’s list includes one major project, a rebuilding of the civic works and road surface of Graham Ave. from Eby to Kenney.