A look at utility and tax changes

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With proposed tax and utility rate increases looming in a preliminary budget report from the city, candidates weighed in this week on how they want to manage rate hikes.

The report, which came out mid-September, projected a 2.9 per cent tax increase for 2018 in order to maintain current service levels in the operating budget, along with a 2.1 per cent utility rate increase.

But preliminary reports aren’t always indicative of what the future holds. In 2016, the preliminary budget report predicted a tax increase of 3.1 per cent alongside a decrease in utility rates by 2.2 per cent. Over the following months, council whittled that down and in May approved a tax increase of 0.8 per cent for residents and 2.1 per cent for non-residents.

The low increase followed a term of similarly low increases. In 2014, taxes increased by 0.2 per cent; in 2015, they increased by 1.8 per cent; and in 2016, they increased by 0.6 per cent.

Utility rate increases, on the other hand, have not remained low over the past term.

In 2013 and 2014, rates increased by 6.5 per cent per year.

Fees soared in 2015 after council introduced a new utility rate model which phased out Municipal Sustainability Initiative funds for utility capital projects. That led to a 20 per cent increase for that year.

In 2016, council lowered utility rates by 1.6 per cent.

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April Hudson