Instead, he asked City staff to come back with options for a four per cent increase in tax revenue.
“We’ve already basically slotted that money or designated that capital Fair Share money towards certain projects,” he argues. “We’d have to cut those out or whatever it would take to reduce the amount going to capital so we could spend more on operating so that we wouldn’t have to increase the tax revenue so much.”
The $74 million operating budget that was up for finalization yesterday includes $1.085 million in operating projects, which could be covered by increasing tax revenue by six per cent, using 2.7 per cent of Fair Share Funds, and $585,000 from the Tax Stabilization Reserve.
Klassen proposes finding other ways instead to reduce tax revenue needed, which could include using more Fair Share Funds, which in turn would take away from the capital budget.
“Instead of doing this and that [capital] project that add up to a million dollars, I would rather take that million dollars for this year and take care of some of those operating projects that are just this year only, and they will not exist after that.”
Much of the city’s capital plan is funded through Fair Share Funding, with the understanding that certain positions and projects rely solely on the industrial taxation. However, City Manager Diane Hunter cautions against creating a dependency on the funds, as they are not guaranteed into the future.
“Be very mindful of the fact that if you go into Fair Share to use it for operating, you’re creating a dependency on a program that at this point’s coming to an end,” she warns. “So if you start going into Fair Share to subsidize or support your operating budget, it’s going to get very difficult if that program goes away as to how to survive.”
In the past couple of years, council has indicated it would rather use money from the Tax Stabilization Fund for one-off operating projects, in lieu of raising taxes. The fund itself is intended to curb any spikes that may occur in a budget due to one-time projects, and is expected to sit around $2 million next year. Last year, the City ended up not dipping into the fund, although $1.16 million was allocated in the budget, due to other changes in revenue and expenditures throughout the year, and the same is expected for 2014.
Another Committee of the Whole Meeting has been scheduled for Monday, November 2.