The city has released the projected budget for next year and 2018. These numbers are tweaked from a year ago to show a continued slowing economy, but the good news is the city now says it won’t have to do as much growth in services as though when the budget was originally set.
The projected tax increase you’ll pay in 2017 will be 3.1%, slightly down from before. It means for the so-called typical home, with an assessed value of $408,000, you’ll be paying an additional $72. The projected hike for 2018 will be 4.9% a tick up by a tenth of a percentage point from the original projection at 4.9%.
“It sounds, at least at first blush, like a reasonable budget in a difficult time for people,” said Coun. Scott McKeen.
The budget document described the economy as being in a “significant decrease.”
“What we’re trying to do is hold the line til things actually settle, then moving forward we’ll deal with it,” chief financial officer Todd Burge told reporters. “But we’re trying really hard to manage our expectations down to the economy and what it looks like for the next year or two.”
One increase that had to fit inside the over all tax hike is 1.5 per cent for neighborhood renewal. “If you recall, council made a decision last year not to put one and a half per cent in for neighborhood renewal based on an expectation of potential grants from federal and provincial services,” Burge said. “Those grants didn’t materialize so we recognized we had a challenge heading into this to maintain that program.”
Burge also said the 2016 money for neighbourhood renewal had to be found with in existing budgets to keep the program going this year.
The report said economic activity has seen a “significant decrease.” It’s meant projections are less because of lower than expected income because of a “slowdown in the development industry.”
Projections have been offset by an increase in the EPCOR dividend by $5 million. Other significant figures include, assessment growth brought in $6 million more than anticipated, expenditure reduction has saved them $6 million, Burge said. A two per cent initiative that council called for at the beginning of their term was expected to yield $10 million in savings. However Burge said the administration has bumped that up to $15 million. That extra $5 million is still in the budget for council to spend on projects that haven’t been approved yet.
Senior management, and non-unionized employees will face a salary freeze in 2017. That’s worth $4.5 million.
Also built into the budget is higher costs from the carbon tax in 2017, worth $3.5 million. That increases to an additional $1.6 million in 2018, which is less than what was first forecast in the spring, when it was expected the carbon tax would cost the city $10 million over two years. “We’ve absorbed that with the over all increase as well. We’ve made some adjustments on our utility side and other expenditure adjustments to make sure we could accommodate the expected cost of climate change,” Burge said.
The report also indicates the city will be paying higher costs because of the minimum wage for some of its employees, worth $700,000 in 2017 and $1.6 million in 2018.
Meanwhile in the waning weeks of 2016, Burge said the city is in a surplus position, of around $20 million, give or take any major snowfall that might happen between now and New Year’s eve.