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Budget 2021: City approves 4.0% property tax increase

Budget process spanning 42 days reaches its conclusion as council approves its 2021 city budget
A series of nine meetings of the finance and administration committee that began on Feb. 24 wrapped up on April 6 as council finalized the 2021 city budget. (File)

A series of nine meetings of the finance and administration committee that began on Feb. 24 wrapped up on April 6 as council finalized the 2021 city budget.

In a year that has been far from typical, council was tasked with one of its most challenging budgets ever, facing a $14-million gap that needed to be closed in order to realize a balanced budget.

That balanced budget was achieved through a gross operating budget of $641 million.

Council was committed to a residential property tax rate increase not to exceed 3.9 per cent, but came in at a four-per-cent increase on the residential property tax rate.

Multi-unit residential properties will see an increase of 3.8 per cent, while commercial properties will see an increase of 0.1 per cent and industrial properties will see an increase of 1.6 per cent.

The city's water/wastewater user rates will see an increase of 4.8 per cent in order to generate a return of $34.2 million in user fees to help fund the $45 million water/wastewater capital budget. The remaining portion of the capital budget will be covered by $9.3 million from the city's reserves and reserve funds, along with nearly $1 million in contributions from federal grants.

In terms of the city's operating budget, a number of transformative business cases will be included in the 2021 budget, including a $2.2 million transitional housing project, a $59 million build at Pioneer Manor and a $5.7 million therapeutic pool in Azilda.

Council also voted in favour of contributing $250,000 in 2022 and 2023 to St. Joseph's Villa for some much-needed facility improvements

Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini got a shot of good news Tuesday as council agreed to reconsider a motion that called for the closure of the Beaver Lake welcome centre. Vagnini informed his fellow councillors that members of the community had stepped up and would contribute the $15,000 necessary to maintain the centre for another year.

During the final night of budget discussions, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc and Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti tabled a number of motions in an effort to cut $1.3 million and further reduce the tax levy increase.

Motions for further salary gapping at city hall in the amount of $350,000, reductions to overtime hours for city employees in the amount of $125,000, along with drawing one-time funding from a number of different city reserves were all stopped in their tracks and voted down.

Signoretti and Leduc were looking for draws of $100,000 from the city's equipment vehicle replacement - parks reserve, a $380,000 draw from the insurance reserve and a $300,000 draw from the sick leave reserve.

Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier has had an eventful year so far in 2021, but he too got some good news as the budget was finalized, as council voted to direct $1.8 million from its capital financing reserve, which is to be replenished from the 2022 capital budget, in order to fund the completion of the Whitson River Trail in Montpellier's ward.

The city's total capital budget weighed in at $144.1 million and will be funded through the operating budget, contributions from federal  and provincial grants, as well as money from the city's reserves and reserve funds.

The city will also fund their capital budget with $10 million in external debt financing.

Council approved the 2021 budget with councillors Leduc, Signoretti and Vagnini voting in opposition. will bring you a more in depth and detailed look at the 2021 budget, so be sure to check back with us.


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