Council has approved what looks like will be half of the property tax increase for next year. Pegged at 3.1 per cent, half of it is tied up in neighborhood renewal which is back on the tax role after a one year hiatus.
“The good news here is, we do 1.5 this year, (in 2017) 1.4 (in 2018) and we do the alleys at about 0.2 per cent, we’re actually through the worst of this in terms of the tax increases to pay for it,” said Coun. Ben Henderson. “Knowing that that’s in reach gives me some assurance because it’ll be nice to not have this in every year.”
Council was also given the big picture, which included a reduction in police revenue. That’s because of a provincial change in the administration of speeding tickets and other on road violations. “The province did actually increase the rates,” chief financial officer Todd Burge told council. “We used to get 73 per cent of the revenue, but when they increased the fines they reduced that amount to 63 per cent. So they get a larger piece of the overall fine revenue which has impacted police negatively in their forecasts.”
A rep from the police commission confirmed to Coun. Bev Esslinger that more tickets have been written than ever before.
“The other part of it is, the number of people who are challenging tickets.” Burge said, suggesting that based on the economy, more people are inclined to fight their ticket.
Other budget proposals were talked about, and set aside for more debate when council begins going through item by item. That will begin on Dec. 8. Through the year council has added items that are worth roughly $11 million, however there is only an additional $5 million built in to the budget to play with.
Last minute additions like a purchase of electric buses that are slated for 25 vehicles but could grow to 40 if the price is right.
And Coun. Bryan Anderson has got the possibility of new on-and-off ramps from the Anthony Henday at 135 street, to replace what’s at 127th. It’s seen as a first step to accessing a future park’n’ride location at Ellerslie road, at the future home of the Heritage Valley LRT station. That’s as long as the province agrees to sell the land to the city for a buck.
“It just doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for the province to sit there and say ‘okay, we want market value, you won’t buy it so we’re just going to have it sit there’ and grow Russian Canadian thistle,” Anderson said.
Council will look at several construction projects. The north west police campus is finally going ahead for a 2019 opening. Lot grading for foundation work is already underway. Infrastructure lead Adam Laughlin told council that more detailed engineering work in the early stages of project development will make decisions easier.
“I think this is part of what we’re trying to correct with the new capital delivery approach we want to take which is for these types of projects, make sure you invest early in design to be able to understand the expectations and outcomes.”
And Mayor Don Iveson said that with the neighborhood rehab program locked in with good prices, the appetite for multi year deals with contractors is an attractive option. “Trades people are hungry for work right now. Pricing is competitive. That may tighten up a little bit as the economy comes back, but I don’t think we’re going to see it spike the way we did five and ten years ago and that’s very very good for us.”
Council has also passed the utilities budget that sees a $2.90 a month increase. That’s broken down to a drainage utility increase of $1 monthly from $32.03 to $33.03. And for waste services the price jump is $1.90 from $43 to $44.90 a month so a so-called typical home will see a monthly bill of around $78.