City council sets sights on next year’s budget

It’s still summertime, but city council is already looking ahead to next year

It’s still summertime, but city council is already looking ahead to next year.

At last week’s Monday meeting, council approved a slate of meetings over the next few months that will deal with the 2017 budget.

The financial planning process will kick off Sept. 20 with a pre-budget committee of the whole meeting, followed by a second pre-budget meeting on Nov. 8.

Tracy Bate, deputy city clerk, said the first meeting will focus on “2017 budget principles and prioritization on council’s SLCR (service level change requests).”

The SLCRs are typically funding requests brought forward to council throughout the year from various community and service groups.

The Nov. 8 meeting is slated for city staff to present business cases on key SLCR and capital projects for the 2017-2026 financial plan.

“The business cases will provide additional information on these projects to aide in council’s decision making during budget deliberations,” Bate said.

Council is then scheduled to dig into the budget starting Dec. 5 – the first of three financial planning meetings slated for Dec. 5, 6 and 7 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Last year financial planning saw council work out a budget that included a 2.45 per cent residential tax increase for 2016.

It was nearly a 2.95 per cent jump but council, on a recommendation from Coun. Larry Samson, made a last minute decision to dip into the city’s reserve account to reduce the increase by 0.5 per cent.

Samson justified the move by saying it was extra funding council had put in during the year.

“I don’t see it as taking out,” he said during last year’s budget deliberations.

“This was money put in last year through taxation or revenue. It wasn’t money already tucked away.”

Property taxes have gone up by 4.14 per cent over the last two years.

The biggest jump in taxes in recent history was in 2012 when council approved a 13.6 per cent residential tax increase (partially offset by a decrease in user fees) in an effort to transition the tax burden off of major industry as the city dealt with the fall out from the Catalyst mill closure.