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City needs to chop more from budget

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  |  Posted: Wednesday, Nov 21, 2012 06:00 am

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In its front-page story on Nov. 17, the Gazette reported that Mayor Crouse is looking to reduce the cityís budget by $1 million. Thatís not nearly enough!

After steep property tax increases throughout most of the last decade, in 2010 taxpayers became hopeful that we had turned the corner and St. Albert property taxes would begin to moderate. The proposed 2013 budget is clear evidence that taxpayersí faith has been misguided. In fact, administration uses the lower tax increases in 2010, 2011 and 2012 to justify the proposed spending increases in 2013!

While Administration should be complimented for finding operating budget savings of $1.1 million, why are these savings not being returned to taxpayers? Why is the money saved being plowed back into new spending?

I am encouraged by the changes in city policies and the new commitment to economic development to diversify the cityís tax base. However, improvement in the current residential to non-residential property assessment split will take time. It could be years before St. Albert residential property owners see a material shift in the residential tax burden. In the meantime, administration must continue to limit spending and find more cost effective ways to deliver services.

The pace of St. Albert property tax increases during the last decade was unsustainable, and has placed St. Albert among the top two highest-taxed municipalities in the province. The city cannot return to the spending levels witnessed during that period. There are limits to the tax burden St. Albert taxpayers can be expected to shoulder, and council must continue to exert pressure on administration to reduce spending next year, and in years to come.

Given the current low inflation and St. Albertís slow growth, any property tax increase that exceeds the effects of inflation plus growth is unacceptable.

A. Keller, St. Albert


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