The City of Greater Sudbury’s proposed 2023 budget was tabled tonight, and includes a 3.7 per cent property tax increase.
Although the document follows the direction of the past city council, it’s still very much city administration’s budget at this time. The city’s elected officials are expected to debate the budget during a series of meetings next month, approve it on March 7 and set a 2023 property tax policy on May 16.
Paring the 2023 budget down enough to result in a 3.7 per cent property tax increase required months of administrative tinkering.
Last year, city administrators calculated that a 9.3 per cent property tax increase would be required in order to maintain service levels at a status quo level.
City council didn’t accept the increase and asked administrators to come back with a 3.7 per cent increase instead, which at the latest update tonight required administrators to cut $17.8 million.
To hit this number, city CAO Ed Archer told city council administrators made the following adjustments:
- Adjust capital budget inflation: $5.4 million
- Revise Vacancy management: $2.7 million
- Investment income: $3.6 million
- Defer plan to build reserves: $3.1 million
- Removal of 199 Larch contribution to reserve: $1 million
- Fuel price adjustments: $600,000
- Adjust winter control budget: $500,000
- Fire training from reserve: $500,000
- Benefit rate adjustments: $400,000
- Decrease in Ontario Municipal Partnership Fund ($700,000)
- Increase in natural gas ($800,000)
- Other (net with other increases): $1.5 million
An additional $1.3 million will need to be cut due to the police board settling on a 5.66 per cent budget increase, which is greater than the 3.7 per cent increase maximum city council asked for.
These adjustments make for more of a “short-term view,” Archer said, noting that they’ve baked much less wiggle room into the budget in areas such as winter control, which is an imprecise budget estimate he said “probably will be wrong.”
By failing to strengthen the city’s reserves, he said city council “reduces your flexibility in the future to take advantage of opportunities that come up,” such as when funding opportunities from senior levels of government come up.
That said, he clarified the city’s limited reserve funds don’t fully close the door to these opportunities because debt financing remains an option.
The city has also proposed a 4.8 per cent water/wastewater rate increase, which Archer said is in line with the city’s long-term financial plan.
The city’s full proposed budget document is available by clicking here. The city’s 2023 budget page went live in conjunction with tonight’s tabling, and can be found by clicking here. Public input will also be sought via the city’s Over to You page, and two virtual town hall meetings are planned to take place in early February.
The dates for these virtual town hall meetings have not been firmed up, but city director of communications and community engagement Marie Litalien said they will be advertised online, including on the city’s Facebook page, as soon as they are.
Sudbury.com will be digging much deeper into the proposed budget in the coming days and weeks.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.