2.1 per cent property tax increase projected
| Posted: Wednesday, Sep 11, 2013 06:00 am
The city’s preliminary budget forecasts a 2.1 per cent property increase in 2014.
“These are projections at this point,” said city manager Patrick Draper, taking council through a presentation on the preliminary 2014 budget on Monday night.
The 2.1 increase includes the portion of the capital budget which would have to be funded by property taxes. Draper said it excludes the forecasted assessment growth of 2.75 per cent, which administration is recommending be used for growth initiatives. The 2.1 per cent increase would maintain current service levels.
“A strategic utilization of assessment growth is a very critical component,” Draper said, warning communities that use assessment growth to keep tax from increasing can end up with steep tax increases farther down the line.
New non-assessment revenue is predicted to be about $2.2 million, coming from sources like user fee increases and interest income from investments. Draper said staff have identified about $1.4 million in savings as well.
The 2.1 per cent increase is the lowest projected rate in the last 10 years, said Draper.
Some challenges for the 2014 budget include adjustments to salaries, the phasing out of the Municipal Sustainability Initiative operating grant from the provincial government causing a $300,000 reduction in grant monies and the addition of capital projects that will cause ongoing operational costs to be incurred.
“I would say this budget is lean and mean,” Draper said, adding that in future years it will probably be harder to find efficiencies. He also noted staff workload, telling council administration has 250 different projects on the go in addition to staff’s day-to-day duties.
Coun. Malcolm Parker asked if the preliminary budget looked at cutting service levels. Draper said the guiding principles prohibit administration from suggesting such cuts.
“The political process has to reduce the service level,” said Mayor Nolan Crouse.
Coun. Wes Brodhead asked about the risk of the projections going awry, while Coun. Len Bracko wanted to know if there was any surplus budgeted.
“This is a very accurate budget,” Draper said.
Coun. Cam MacKay said the 2.1 per cent increase is reasonable and a good start for the next council, but added while St. Albert’s rate increase might be one of the lowest in comparison to other similar-sized municipalities, the amount paid isn’t low.
“We’re still the highest dollar rate in the capital region,” MacKay said.
Crouse expressed concerns about projects that don’t come with a new business case, giving the new botanical bus loop as an example. Draper said they are careful with projects that aren’t approved – but those fell under approved funding. Anything requiring new funding will come to council as a business case, Draper said.
Council voted unanimously to receive the report on the preliminary budget as information.