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City on pace for surplus

The city is poised to end the year on a high note with a projected $407,100 surplus, and some city councillors already have a good idea of where that money should be spent.

The city is poised to end the year on a high note with a projected $407,100 surplus, and some city councillors already have a good idea of where that money should be spent.

"Without a question it'll go toward operating expenses for 2010," suggested Coun. Roger Lemieux. "That money will just come off the [tax rate]. I wouldn't be in favour of anything else."

The operating surplus largely owes itself to an increase in revenue from development and building permits, dispatch services, admissions at Servus Credit Union Place, and lower expenses.

After the second-quarter update, administration was forecasting an overall deficit of $180,000, marking the first loss in more than decade. For Coun. James Burrows, hearing the news of a surplus was music to his ears.

"I'm jumping for joy. I was not very optimistic that we were going to have enough money to cover off the balance of the year," said Burrows. "I think some of it should be used to maybe reduce the tax rate a little bit and roll the rest into reserves just in case we have a huge spring snow storm or something that's unforeseen."

From January to September, nearly $89 million in building and development permits were issued, compared to $44 million last year. That led to an extra $700,000 in revenue compared to the 2009 budget.

Servus Place is anticipated to lose $466,000 less than the $1.7-million loss in the 2009 budget. Much of that smaller loss is due to cost cutting; Servus Place has saved $291,000 through lower staffing costs, contracts and utilities.

Business licences also increased to 3,039 this year from 2,868 in 2008.

Investments suffer

The city's surplus would have been higher had it not been for underperforming investments. Administration budgeted $1.4 million in investment income in 2009. After the third quarter the city anticipates earning just half, at $681,600.

Corporate services general manager Dean Screpnek said savings in other areas helped cushion the blow.

"We are able to offset the impact of anticipated lower revenue and still report a surplus for the city," he said.

The city's reserves are expected to reach $28 million by year's end, down $7.2 million from the beginning of the year. The drop is due to budgeted capital projects coming off the books.

The city currently has 173 capital projects in progress that amount to about $20.8 million.

The city's latest numbers show the city's year-end debt load is projected at $73 million, an increase of $4.5 million that was borrowed for Ray Gibbon Drive.

With the exception of Ray Gibbon Drive and Servus Place, the city's debt is expected to be wiped out by 2013. The city's debt limit is $177 million.