Base budget at 1.3 per cent tax increase

City council approved a 1.3 per cent tax increase in its base budget Monday during day one of 2016 budget planning.

The base budget contains funding for all City Hall departments as well the city’s contractual and inflationary obligations.

The tax increase is not final, as service level change requests and the city’s capital project plan had yet to be deliberated before the Mirror went to press.

Some councillors, though, were not happy with how things left off on Monday.

Councillors Charlie Cornfield and Larry Samson both opposed the baseline budget which includes a $20 tax increase in 2016 for the average household.

Samson said he didn’t feel council tried hard enough.

“I won’t be supporting the base budget,” Samson said Monday. “We tried to bring in a number of changes that would have had a zero per cent tax increase. On that basis, I won’t support the motion.”

Council started the day – and financial plan deliberations – facing a 1.4 per cent increase to the base budget in order to satisfy the city’s operations budget and contract obligations.

That got shaved down to 1.3 per cent after council eliminated $15,000 from the city’s legislative services department and reduced its risk management budget by an additional $15,000.

Money was put back into the operating budget later in the day, however, after council decided to move $3,700 for portable washrooms on Canada Day from council’s contingency reserve into the city’s parks and recreation budget.

Samson and Cornfield tried to reduce the city’s economic development budget but the rest of council chose to hold on to the money in order to get the city through a transition of moving the function in-house.

Mayor Andy Adams said he was satisfied with the numbers in the base budget as they are in line with inflation.

“I am pleased to see the recommendation is sitting at 1.4 as the GDP nationally is sitting at around 1.5,” Adams said. “I would certainly look for consideration that the parameter be more aligned with the national GDP.”

The base budget approved by council contains no new or altered services other than those related to wage and benefits, contractual obligations, utilities, and changes imposed on the city through legislation.

The base budget also contains no new staff positions.

“I really appreciate that no new improvements have been included,” Adams said.

Council was expected to debate its capital budget on Tuesday after the Mirror went to press, and service level change requests today, starting at 9 a.m.

Budget planning is expected to wrap up either this afternoon or on Thursday, which is an optional budget day.