For the most part, Council and staff spent the majority of the meeting going through Operating Projects, as this is the area in which cuts can be made with minimal affect on city workers.
“The changes that we have done to the… operating projects is the Corporate Strategic Plan to take 18 months so the budget has been adjusted to reflect that, the Charlie Lake Master Plan has been shifted to 2016; the Downtown Action Plan budget increased to reflect the need to maintain momentum and begin implementation in 2015,” Director of Finance, Mike Roy explained of differences in this presentation compared to last month’s. “We have removed the Green Ridge Heights Development Plan from the project list.”
Roy adds, “New to the list that wasn’t there last time was the inclusion of a pilot project for the enhancement of the downtown maintenance.”
The area in which the enhanced maintenance will encompass is the intersection of 100 Street and 100 Avenue, going a block in each direction through the north and south alleys. This was created under the guidance of city staff and also the desire of the public.
Operating Project have also been divided into three different categories, which are priority projects with a six – eight month timeline, priority projects with a multi-year timeframe, as well as projects that are linked to each other.
Projects with a six – eight month timeline include:
- Roll Carts for Curbside Recycling
- Fire Services Plans
- Charlie Lake Boat Launch
- Facilities Master Plan
- Cemetery Master Plan
Those with a multi-year timeframe include:
- Fair Share Renewal/Coalition
- Corporate Strategic Plan
- Master Transportation Plan
- Downtown Action Plan – Phase three
- Development Services Review
Linked projects include:
- Boundary Expansion – awaiting outcome of 50 year planning horizon
- Recreation Master Plan – following commencement of the Corporate Strategic Plan
- Social Framework – following commencement of the Corporate Strategic Plan
- Charlie Lake Master Plan – following completion of Recreation Master Plan
“Just as a reminder, the operating project fund is from prior years’ surpluses, so any change in the projects would not have an impact on the tax rate going into 2015,” Roy said.
When compared to the 2014 Operating Budget, there’s approximately a $4.2 million, or a 7 per cent increase in total expenditures. While staff still needs the latest assessed values for properties in the city before deciding if there is a need to increase property taxes, some council members are uneasy about the 7 per cent hike.
“The tax rate and single-family dwelling impact right now, worst case scenario in this budget that was presented, is a 7 per cent tax rate impact based on 2014 assessments,” Roy went on to explain. “This works out to about $118 per single-family dwelling.”
“I’m not comfortable with a 7 per cent [increase], and I understand the ratios and assessments, and the 2014 numbers but if the bottom line is increasing 7 per cent then I’d like to know if there are some ways we can reduce that,” Councillor Gord Klassen said.
While City Council and staff didn’t necessarily commit to any cut backs, some ideas were thrown around. Some of these include shifting the line painting of roads to an in-house duty, as well as scaling back funds for protective services and possibly dipping into the Fair Share Reserve in an effort to mitigate the cost on taxpayers.
Council says their goal is to reduce the 7 per cent increase to 5 per cent or lower, and will continue working towards this goal moving forward with their final 2015 Operating Budget.