City releases first draft of operating budget for 2016

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Fort St. John’s City Council looked over the first draft of the 2016 operating budget, presented by Director of Finances Mike Roy.

“It’s part of an ongoing discussion,” said City Manager Dianne Hunter, mentioning that the Capital Budget has gone before Council and a public meeting. “But now it’s time to turn our attention to the day-to-day operations of the municipality, and whether or not you’d like to amend or modify different areas of the operations.”

Excluding self-funded utilities such as sewage and water, the operating budget for 2016 is currently set at 8,049,745, from 10,387,268 allocated in funding. The budget for those self-funded operations is expected to be 1,172,545.

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Without projects in 2016 factored in, the budget sits at 76,822,411, with 95,924,498 available.

The operating budget is presented now with the acknowledgment that there are amounts subject to change as property assessments take place later on.

“Based on 2015 assessment numbers, required revenue would increase tax rates by 3.7% – final tax rate change is pending finalization of assessment numbers for 2016,” the presentation reads.

The City says a 2015 representative home assessment in Fort St. John was $352,146, and with that assessment in mind, the property tax is projected to increase by $65.32 — to 1,812.25 in 2016 from 1,746.93 in 2015. This is equivalent to 18 cents per day.

One reason for the increase is that the majority of the growth occurring  in the city is residential, as opposed to commercial. According to Roy, the costs of providing services to residential-zoned property is generally 1.67-2 times higher.

Roy said there are external pressures building the budget, mostly keeping taxes balanced. BC Hydro rates are capped at 4% for 2016, and property insurance is increasing by 6.5% — due to the fire of the North Peace Gymnastic’s Club building fire.

On the other hand, the City faces opposing pressures from federal taxpayer associations and federations to keep taxes low.

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The costs of city services outlined is about $7.07 each day per resident, covering:

  • Protective Services: $1.74
  • Transportation Services (roads): $1.28
  • General Government Services: $1.16
  • Recreation and Culture: $1.12
  • Sewer Utilities: $0.57
  • Water Utilities: $.056
  • Transit Services: $0.33
  • Environmental Development: $0.21
  • Public Health and Welfare: $0.10

A public meeting for residents to attend regarding the operating budget will be held on December 14th, 2015 at 6 PM.

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