A preliminary report on St. Albert’s budget position shows the city needs a 2.9 per cent tax increase to maintain current service levels for its 2018 operating budget.
Councillors received the report in a memo dated Aug. 31 from the city manager’s office.
The report, which the city compiles each year, includes the tax increase as well as a utility rate increase of 2.1 per cent for 2018.
Mayor Nolan Crouse described the report as a “high-level” look at the city’s budget position.
“It’s so preliminary that it hardly provides much value other than it starts the conversation,” he said.
In order to keep service levels at current levels, the city needs to bring in $100.4 million in taxes. Current tax levels mean the city would fall $2.9 million short of that goal, leading to the requirement of a blended 2.9 per cent increase.
The report states city staff arrived at that number after considering the economic climate and council priorities.
Crouse said the projected tax increase does not include any new capital costs.
“This is basically maintaining what you already have – everything from public works to public transit,” he said, adding it will be up to the next council to decide how to deal with potential increases in service.
The city’s policy is for staff to provide numbers that require no changes to service levels before recommending changes. Those changes normally add to the operating costs for the city.
“Generally … they recommend an increase,” Crouse said.
The increase is tied to the municipal price index, which is similar to the consumer price index but involves prices for products and services municipalities use such as asphalt, snow removal and construction.
As for utility rates, some of the factors the city took into account when arriving at the 2.1-per-cent figure include inflation and expected population increase.
The report states its numbers should be considered as preliminary estimates, with the finalized 2018-20 business plan and budget expected to come to council in November 2017.
The report is normally delivered at a council meeting or committee meeting, but Mayor Nolan Crouse said it was sent in a memorandum this year due to the volume of items already being discussed at council.
For the 2017 budget, the city eyed a 3.1 per cent tax increase in its preliminary report of September 2016 but approved a lower tax increase at 0.8 per cent for residential taxes. Nonresidential taxes were increased by 2.1 per cent.
City manager Kevin Scoble was unavailable for an interview before press time.