The second and final day of Greater Sudbury budget talks ended on Thursday with a 4.6 per cent tax levy increase and a 4.8 water/wastewater rate hike.
For the average residential property assessed at $230,000, the levy jump represents an annual tax increase of $153.72.
Getting everything done in only two meetings “was a lot of work,” Ward 9 Coun. Deb Mcintosh told Sudbury.com after Thursday’s meeting.
The city’s elected officials asked a lot of questions and drafted amendments in advance of budget deliberations to help speed up the process, said McIntosh, who headed budget talks as chair of the finance and administration committee.
Reflecting on the two days’ worth of decisions city council made, McIntosh said, “We’re getting things that move our community forward.”
“We have a goal. We need to grow the community because there’s only 53 people per square kilometre living in the city and it's not enough to pay for all the roads and all the infrastructure we have,” she added. “We have to invest in ourselves now to set the stage for that to happen.”
Unwilling to borrow more money to cover the city’s infrastructure deficit or increase taxes by an astronomical degree, she said the city’s only real solution is to grow its assessment base.
Although this year’s 4.6 per cent municipal tax levy jump is greater than the city’s 20-year average annual increase of approximately four per cent, McIntosh noted that inflation has affected the cost of just about everything, and Greater Sudbury has not been immune.
Prior to budget deliberations kicking off, the city faced a 9.3 per cent tax levy increase in order to keep services at a status quo level. City council had administrators cut $17.8 million from the base budget to hit the 3.7 per cent tax increase used as a starting point for budget talks.
With the Greater Sudbury Police Service budget coming in at $1.38-million greater than the city anticipated, the projected tax increase bumped up to 4.1 per cent.
Everything else city council did during their two days of budget deliberations accounts for the 0.5 per cent balance of this year’s 4.6 per cent tax rate bump.
The two marathon meetings saw the city’s elected officials power through myriad requests for funding, while a handful of proposed service level reductions failed to find anyone willing to bring them forward.
This includes a series of proposed GOVA Transit service level reductions, which McIntosh said there was “no appetite for.”
There was, however, an appetite for various other proposals, with some of the most notable being:
- Adding two additional 12-hour ambulance shifts to paramedic services
- Introducing a new cellular paging system for volunteer firefighters
- Enhanced security services for the Greater Sudbury Housing Corporation
- Adding 10 new sworn members to Greater Sudbury Police Service as part of their 5.66 per cent budget increase
- An increase to the annual Elderly Tax Credit from $250 to $400
- Updating the 11-year-old Downtown Master Plan
A few related efforts are slated to tackle traffic safety concerns throughout Greater Sudbury, including the introduction of as between two and six mobile speed enforcement cameras.
The devices will operate similarly to the existing red light cameras, and result in motorists exceeding the speed limit receiving a ticket in the mail, which each offence anticipated to generate $55 in fine revenue. Unlike the static red light cameras, they can be relocated throughout the city.
Although the speed enforcement cameras are expected to cost $330,000 to operate, the revenue they bring in is projected to top it up to a net revenue of more than $43,000.
The city is also anticipated to implement gateway speed limits in one neighbourhood of each of the city’s 12 wards, at a cost of $71,500. The signs display speed limits that apply to entire neighbourhoods, and will see speed limits reduced from 50 km/h to 40 km/h. In school zones, speed limits will drop from 40 km/h to 30 km/h.
After the city’s temporary flexible bollard traffic-calming effort proved successful last year, the city is now slated to increase the number of locations with bollards from 10 to 28, at a capital cost of $30,000 and a new ongoing annual cost of $27,000.
The bollards consist of a series of three flexible posts placed at the sides and centre of affected roads as a means of narrowing the driving space to reduce the speed of vehicles. Each trio of posts are spaced 150 metres apart along the roadway and are installed as soon as spring street-sweeping and line painting-wraps up. They are removed by the end of October to accommodate winter snow plowing, weather permitting.
A few efforts approved in the budget are slated to tackle economic growth, with Mayor Paul Lefebvre championing a $1.25-million interim fix on Fielding Road and the development of an employment land strategy.
The Fielding Road repair falls short of the water and wastewater improvements area business owners requested, and the surface road work planned was described by city traffic and asset management supervisor Joe Rocca as a “short-term solution” only expected to last between two and five years.
“It’s been on the books for a long time ... and I think it’s important that we show the business community on the industrial side that we want to service our lands,” Lefebvre said.
The employment land strategy is anticipated to help “guide strategic infrastructure investments and policy development,” and with Fielding Road identified as a key strategic employment area, it’s anticipated that further infrastructure work is recommended in the strategy.
The strategy’s $4.5-million cost is being spread out over five years, and will see the city “undertake detailed design for the strategic employment areas,” according to its business case.
Thursday’s budget deliberations saw the city’s elected officials debate and ultimately vote against tacking on an additional 1.5 per cent tax levy increase, which would have brought in approximately $4.7 million earmarked for infrastructure projects.
Only four of the city’s 12 elected officials to vote during Thursday’s deliberations approved the proposal, including Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, Ward 5 Coun. Pauline Fortin and Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer.
When it came time to approve the 2023 budget as a whole, only Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini voted against it.
Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier did not attend either day of budget deliberations, while Leduc did not attend the first day's meeting.
Although city council approved the municipal portion of the 2023 tax levy, the overall impact of 2023 taxes won’t be known until the city’s elected officials adopt a new property tax policy on May 16.
The policy factors in both municipal and education taxes, as well as tax ratios (how much each property classification pays). Although city council approved a 3.1 per cent municipal tax levy increase in 2022, most residential property owners ended up seeing their taxes increase by 2.9 per cent by the time the property tax policy was adopted.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.