2017 Budget Approved By Council, Reflects Provincial Budget Impacts
Major Project Deferrals, Service Reductions and Moderate Tax Increase Integrated
On April 11, City Council approved the 2017 budget which reflected the impact of the provincial budget announced on March 22, 2017. Faced with an estimated $297,000 shortfall – representing a tax increase of 5.4% – after the province unexpectedly cut the long-standing grants-in-lieu program, Council and Administration were forced to make difficult decisions to make up this budget gap.
Budget recommendations ensured existing issues were addressed into 2017. The budget integrates a blended approach of capital project deferrals and/or phasing, service reductions where programs may be provided elsewhere and a moderate tax increase to deal with the permanent loss of revenue. Completing the expanded water plant to ensure safe drinking water and increased storage capacity, priority road improvements and select stormwater engineering design work are to be maintained, for example.
Existing tax levy sources, such as the water, sewer and storm water base fees collected each month through utility billing, as well as the annual Infrastructure and Road Rehabilitation tax levy collected through property taxes, will be used to continue with important infrastructure renewal projects such as those mentioned above. The City did not draw on reserves to cover the budget shortfall.
However, major projects such as a proposed ball diamond development north of 16th Avenue will need to occur in phases and with the support of community partners. Paving the north section of the UNIPLEX/Centennial Park parking lot is to be deferred. Funding for community programs and services that widely benefit most citizens and support Our Humboldt’s community priorities are to be maintained. Unfortunately, programs such as the Kids Summer Fun Camp and the City’s sponsorship of the annual Halloween Party will not be continued in 2017. Administrative operating expenses are to be significantly tightened up.
In order to maintain service levels as best possible and keep a tax increase at a manageable level, an approximate municipal tax of 6.5% is proposed. Citizens will receive a small amount of tax relief when the Hospital tax levy is reduced later in 2017. However, local properties will see variable impacts as Council has yet to determine 2017 mill rates; information will be included in the annual property tax notice. Please note this does not include Education Taxes which are set by the provincial government.
The province has indicated that ongoing review of provincial grants and funding to municipalities will occur, meaning unpredictable and unsustainable funding for the municipal sector. To continue to meet such budget challenges into 2018 and beyond, the City will apply its priority-based budget process to review programs, services and priorities.
City Council and Administration continue to work with the Saskatchewan Association of Urban Municipalities (SUMA) and its membership to gather information to make informed decisions as best possible for citizens during this challenging time.