Number crunching trims tax hike to 3.15%

Operating budget talks began on an optimistic note as city administration worked overnight to bring down the proposed property tax hike on Wednesday.

Operating budget talks began on an optimistic note as city administration worked overnight to bring down the proposed property tax hike on Wednesday.

Roughly $744,000 in savings were found after some juggling with numbers. That included adjusting the gas price to reflect new projections and factoring in the RCMP “soft” vacancies at the end of year. Those are the positions that are not filled because of various forms of leaves.

The tweaks bring the proposed property tax hike to 3.15 per cent from 3.77 per cent. The budget was tabled at 3.78 per cent in December.

And that is where the recommended property hike stayed after four hours of debate despite attempts by council to bring it down further on the second day of operating budget talks.

“We are very pleased that we are down to 3.15 per cent,” said Mayor Tara Veer. “Council is having some rigorous debate. I think ultimately it is reflect of where our community is at and recognizing that we are in a deeper recession then we were in 2008 and we need to recognize that.”

Veer said the intent of council is to try to arrive at the lowest number possible recognizing that it is charged with being responsible for the financial decisions of the community.

“But I think there is a recognition on council’s part that we don’t want to arrive at that number artificially,” said Veer. “Having engaged in deep service level or infrastructure cuts in the past, our community responds the other way saying that there are shortfalls and we need to adjust issues in the community. So I think we are trying to find the right balance to serve our citizens and honours the commitments that we made to our citizens and do it the most rigours financial way.”

Council, however, successfully trimmed a total of $37,000 from two line items — stopping security checks on the old RCMP building ($12,000) and cutting the temporary procurement resources in half to $25,000. The item will be up for discussion again at mid-year budget review in August.

Coun. Tanya Handley unsuccessfully argued to cut the one per cent growth revenue contribution of $1.2 million to the capital amenities fund in half to $600,000 in 2016.

Last year council established the capital amenities fund, where one per cent of the growth revenue into a fund to pay for projects in the 10-year plan.

Handley said this motion is not about amenities rather about how they can save more for the taxpayers in light of the current economic reality. She said there is no service reduction as opposed to other items in the budget. She said future budgets including this one could choose to add to the percentage once the economy bounces back.

“I think what it really does is show our citizens that we hear them and that we are just as concerned about job loss and the economy as they are,” she said. “People feel that we need to pull back and this is an area where I feel we could pull back without too much damage to service levels.”

But council reasoned the implications would be too far reaching.

Chief Financial Officer Dean Krejci told council that the reduction would force the city to ultimately reduce or eliminate projects in the capital plan, if it did not find additional funding sources.

The city would lose $6 million in the fund for projects in the 10-year plan.

Coun. Lynne Mulder said this issue was debated long and hard. Mulder said the city needs to look to the future. She started on council when taxes were raised 10 and 11 per cent because previous councils had “robbed Peter to pay Paul’ and did not put money into infrastructure.”

Debate Highlights:

l Council slammed the province over the loss of $455,000 in funding for social housing.

Last spring the province notified the city it would not pay roughly $195,000 its portion of municipal taxes on six units of social housing.

The city’s budget team, however, learned while preparing the budget, the reduction was actually $455,000, its portion of municipal taxes on the city’s entire social housing units (163 units).

The city was not informed or consulted on the elimination in funding.

“Shame on the provincial government for this,” said Coun. Buck Buchanan. “Shame on the provincial for making municipalities find it by surprise. This is absolutely ridicious and unacceptable. I am hoping our premier is listening and so is our financial minister. Hopefully our MLAs and shame on them for doing

Coun. Lawrence Lee said it is a direct download onto municipalities to cover off provincial expenses.

Taxpayers will be on the hook for .37 per cent more on a homeowner’s tax bill because the province will not pay the $455,000.

The city penned a letter to Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Seniors, in December asking for the province to re-instate the funding.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

Report finds many birds in decline but co-operation works to rebuild populations

The bad news is that the populations of more than one-quarter of… Continue reading

Raptors coach Nick Nurse says meeting in the works with Prime Minister Trudeau

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse says a meeting is in the… Continue reading

Trade, China sure to surface as Trudeau meets Trump, congressional leaders

WASHINGTON — Justin Trudeau is headed back to the White House today… Continue reading

Oil shippers boost security after mysterious attacks in Gulf

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A series of attacks on oil tankers… Continue reading

RCMP officer accused of sexual assault could take stand Thursday

Crown prosecutor expected to finish her case in morning

VIDEO: Avengers: Endgame to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

Quebec’s biggest French school board postpones applying religious symbols law

MONTREAL — Quebec’s largest school board has voted to delay application of… Continue reading

B.C. Conservative MP Mark Warawa dies after cancer diagnosis

OTTAWA — Conservative MP Mark Warawa has died after being diagnosed with… Continue reading

Trump promises help with Canadian detainees in China as Trudeau visits D.C.

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump says he will raise the issue… Continue reading

VIDEO: Avengers: Endgame to be re-released with new footage

‘Avatar’ holds global box office record at $2.788 billion, while ‘Endgame’ stands at $2.743 billion…

‘He gets it’: Bowen Byram set to hear name called early at NHL draft

VANCOUVER — Bowen Byram’s bantam coach knew almost immediately the defenceman would… Continue reading

Guardado scores 2 as Mexico beats Canada 3-1

DENVER — Andres Guardado had two goals in the second half, Roberto… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews on cover of “NHL 20” video game

Toronto Maple Leafs star forward Auston Matthews will be on the cover… Continue reading

Opinion: Trans Mountain pipeline proceeds should be invested in Alberta

By David Marsden There’s a much-expected sigh of relief now that the… Continue reading

Most Read