City tax bills to go up 2.57 per cent

After nearly 20 hours of deliberation Thursday through Saturday, city council finally came down with its 2011 budget which sees a 2.57 per cent increase in how much taxpayers will pony up compared to 2010.

After nearly 20 hours of deliberation Thursday through Saturday, city council finally came down with its 2011 budget which sees a 2.57 per cent increase in how much taxpayers will pony up compared to 2010.

The starting point for deliberations was that the city would receive $22.15 million in taxes, assuming there was no increase this time.

Responding to a question from the Sentinel, municipal manager Trafford Hall confirmed that number was not based on this year’s assessed values.

Instead it was just a repeat of 2010’s tax revenue number – in other words at a minimum the tax rates were going up to ensure the city’s tax revenues this year were the same as last.

Any tax increase resulting from the budget deliberations would be over and above that.

Council also started with the benefit of a total $1.5 million surplus created by savings achieved last year by the various departments in their operational budgets.

The 2.57 per cent increase would translate into a hike for the average homeowner of $26.28 more than they paid last year.

However, that assumes council apportions the tax increase in the same way as last year across the various classes – major industrial, light industrial, commercial, residential etc.

That didn’t happen in 2006, for example, where council froze commercial and light industrial taxes and raised residential 10 per cent to offset in part.

Something like that could happen this year, mayor Joanne Monaghan having expressed her dismay that the Cenovus property (the former Methanex site), while being the scene of much activity, paid so little in taxes because is was designated light industrial.

That site was designated major industrial in the Methanex days because it was a manufacturing plant whereas it is now simply a shipping terminal.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff also threw out a hint that he may want to look at commercial, but without indicating which direction he might want to see that class go.

It appears that matter won’t come up for discussion for another three weeks so in the meantime the $26.28 figures will hold.

That’s a lot less than council was looking at at the outset. 

Although the total for operational was about $500,000 lower than budgeted for last year, the cost of all the capital projects on the ‘wish list’, if approved in their entirety, would have meant a 17.14 per cent increase, or $175.39.

However, a huge chunk of that – about 10 per cent – disappeared when council decided to set aside $2 million for land purchases against the original $4 million request.

That part of the discussion was held in camera because it involved potential land purchases by the city.

Ultimately council approved $9.67 million in capital expenditure of which more than $5.1 million came from reserves.

Just over $1 million of road rebuilds will go ahead and, assuming an application for a provincial grant is successful, $660,000 of sidewalk replacements.