Council is looking at a 2.87 per cent tax increase, or $40.69 for the average household, after day one of the city’s capital plan budget deliberations.
Council committed Monday morning to a one per cent tax increase this year, with the proceeds going to the Capital Works Reserve to fund new and replacement capital infrastructure such as roads, equipment, and city facilities.
The rest of the increase, 1.87, was already approved by council in the base budget in December.
The theme of Monday’s budget planning session, which began at 9 a.m. and wrapped up at 3 p.m., was finding where the money would come from to finance the city’s capital projects, rather than cutting from the budget.
One of the biggest challenges of the day was dealing with the city’s aging sewer and water infrastructure.
“Water and sewer are the number one and two services,” Coun. Claire Moglove said. “You turn on the tap, you get water. You flush the toilet, things go away. This is our staff saying to us in order to have a viable water and sewer system, this is what we need to do. This has to do with growth on the south end of town and over capacity and water pressure.”
To that end, council approved a water and sewer capital plan that includes seven projects which the city will have to borrow money for.
At Monday’s budget meeting, council authorized city staff to prepare a Loan Authorization Bylaw, with a $15 million borrowing limit based on a 15-year term. The bylaw would be a blanket policy. Council would have to authorize staff to apply for a loan each time it wants to proceed with one of the projects. City staff would then submit an application to the Municipal Finance Association to borrow the funding, and the process would also require the elector’s assent, possibly through a referendum.
Council also approved the Downtown Revitalization-St. Ann’s block project, which includes landscaping and upgrading of underground utilities and coincides with Seymour Pacific’s new head office slated for downtown. The project is estimated to be $4.04 million. Portions of funding will come from the city’s already established Capital Works Fund, the Community Works Fund, Storm Drain Parcel tax, water operating accumulated surplus and the sewer operating accumulated surplus.
Council also voted to fund Centennial Pool from the gaming reserve for a second straight year, as well as summer programs, to save money in the operating budget.
Council also chose to spend $75,000 on downtown street lighting, to be paid for by the Capital Works Reserve.
Council also instructed city staff to investigate and report back on whether the city can take $440,000 for Willis and Petersen Road improvements (widen the shoulders) from the Community Works Fund.
For more, see Wednesday’s Mirror.