FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The City of Fort St. John presented Council with the draft operating budget for 2019 at a Committee of the Whole Meeting on January 7.
David Joy, General Manager of Corporate Services, presented Council with the draft operating budget.
The City of Fort St. John operating budget covers the day to day operations of the City and doesn’t include capital projects like the new RCMP detachment or road and sewer upgrades.
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During the presentation, Joy pointed out that the draft budget is balanced, noting that there are challenges that may lay ahead if the City continues to keep rates the same.
“I am presenting to you today operating and capital budgets that are, in essence, balanced based on the same tax rates, levels of service, no increase in staff, nothing controversial in the transformation, but there are challenges both current year and what we may face in the future by maintaining the status quo.”
Joy says the tax rates have been kept the same for 2019 in comparison to the previous year adding that the City is in the mid to lower range when it comes to residential tax rates in comparison to similar communities.
“With the operating budget this year, we’ve kept the tax rates the same. Last year we kept tax revenue the same. It should be noted that tax rates for residential, we’ve looked at this in many ways and it’s part of a financial framework discussion and generally for residential properties, we are in the mid to lower range of comparable communities.”
If Council decides to keep the tax rate the same for 2019, like 2018, the City will receive $471,248 in additional revenue due to changes in property assessments if Council decides to use that scenario, that average residential property would see their property tax decrease by $20 for the year.
To determine the operating budget tax rate, Joy says they keep looking at future yearly trends and basing it off how much the City spends.
“We keep looking at three or four-year trends, and what we actually spend and the important thing is, does the budget make sense? We want to not be in a position where we over-tax the public; we just want to be fair with our costs.”
To help offset some of the operating costs, and to keep taxes low, the City receives funds as part of the Peace River Agreement Allocation Fund.
This meeting was the first of many public budget meetings that have been scheduled and served as an introduction to the 2019 Operating Budget. Further direction will be provided at future meetings.
The deadline for the budget to be finalized is May 15, 2019, with City staff planning to have it finalized and approved by Council sometime in April.