Town admin proposes two per cent property tax increase for 2019

Notable capital projects include lagoon, old church

Town administration presented a summary of a proposed budget on Monday, calling for a tax increase in 2019.

The following information is from a draft budget. At their next meeting Jan. 21, council could approve the 2019 budget, approve it in part, or not approve it at all.

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Administration proposed revenue from property taxes to increase two per cent, while revenue from utility fees is proposed to increase by $116,000 for the town, or close to 7.7 per cent versus last year.

“An increase is needed because services and the cost of doing business increases every year,” Mayor Ames Leslie said. “Two per cent is a very modest increase considering what we’re seeing increase across the province.”

Leslie added there hasn’t been an adjustment to utilities rates since 2012.

Such proposed revenue increases would bring in an extra $92,000 for the Town compared to last year. Total revenue would come to about $7,500,000.

At Monday’s meeting, Director of Finance David Gillan outlined some increasing expenses and planned capital projects. Not including capital projects, town expenses are estimated to be nearly $6,000,000, an increase in 2019 by about $200,000.

Some increased expenses are due to a finance supervisor position, increased councillors’ travel budgets, legal budgets, insurance and an increasing RCMP contract. The RCMP contract usually increases as population increases, Gillan said.

More details about expenses will be available when the town releases the full proposed budget document.

Administration proposed some big capital expenditures for 2019.

The largest proposed capital expenses are upgrades to the waste water lagoon. Among other functions, the waste water lagoon treats municipal sewage and waste water.

The entire project is expected to cost at least $4.5 million. Council still has to determine a start date, Leslie said, adding the project would “probably be done in the 12-month period since its start.”

Other projects include storm sewer work starting at 13th Avenue, and Gillan said erosion is causing problems. The project affects multiple blocks.

A total of $263,000 is proposed for 2019, and other expenses, ranging between about $250,000 and $526,000 in future years are suggested until 2023.

Gillan said town leaders have discussed and planned the project for a number of years, and “now we’re able to work with our engineering firm to phase this over a number of years,” adding the project would definitely take two years, and potentially two more to complete.

Street rehabilitation on 2nd Avenue from 30th to 35th Street was planned to take place last year, but didn’t happen, in part, Gillan said, because the budget wasn’t finished last year until summer.

“We were a little late getting into the market to try to find contractors,” Gillan said, adding completion in 2018 would have cost a premium.

A total of $450,000 is budgeted for the surface work, and $244,000 is listed as utilities work for 2nd Avenue. The amounts are carryovers from last year’s budget.

The old St. Vital Church budget line received a proposed increase of $15,000, bringing it to $50,000. Council still hasn’t made a decision about the future of the church, and Gillan said such funding could go to demolition or “minor restorative work.”

According to an assessment by engineering firm JC Kenyon, repairs to preserve the building would cost $50,000. Work at $50,000 wouldn’t improve functionality but would “assist in protecting the existing structure for future use,” and include repairing stucco and footing to stop water infiltration, and shingling the roof.

Gillan said municipal governments are required to have balanced budgets, and if budgets go awry during the year, councils usually choose to delay capital projects.

If council decides to invest less in capital projects, Gillan said, utility fees could see less increase.

Proposed tax increase (excluding the education portion of property tax):

Despite the proposed increases, and assuming the proposed budget is passed, ratepayers’ taxes and fees might not go up exactly two or 7.7 per cent. Gillan said the average assessed property would increase by two per cent. But assessed values in town vary.

Municipal property taxes are made of base taxes and the municipal levy. All ratepayers pay close to $1,000 in base taxes. The municipal levy portion of property taxes varies.

Last year, someone whose property was assessed at about $162,000 paid a total of $1,484 in municipal property taxes. Someone’s whose property was assessed at about $514,000 paid $2,610.

A three per cent tax increase last year resulted in the former taxpayer paying a tax increase of $32 (2.8 per cent), and the latter $128 (5.17 per cent).

Regarding utilities rates, Gillan said, proposed increases would cost the average user an additional $6 per month. However, the more water one uses, the more they pay, and Leslie said the total $116,000 to be raised includes water use by residential and commercial properties.

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