The numbers are in, now the crunching begins as City Council got its first look at the 2015-2018 operating budget.
There are several items that drew council’s attention, particularly the 2.93 per cent annual increase in property taxes.
“I think 2.9 percent is on the high side, so we will see what we can do to bring that down,” said Mayor Chris Spearman.
The budget also includes an annual increase of 2.62 per cent in utility rates, but Spearman said people should not be concerned with the increases this early in the process.
“We want to make sure that we thoroughly investigate all the opportunities that there are for savings, then look at everything that we are doing in terms of adding costs and just make sure tax payers are getting value for their money.”
Some significant spending increases include $5.5 million over the next four years for the Capital Improvement Program, which would cost the tax payer $1.76 per month. Emergency services would see an additional $2.8 million increase, with a tax change of $0.91 per month
“First blush, it meets the needs of what the projected growth is internally,” said Councillor Jeffrey Coffman, who is acting chair of the Finance Committee.
“It is incumbent upon us to go back through the document and see if there are other opportunities or options we can take advantage of.”
This is the first time the city has worked with four-year operating budget, as opposed to three, to match the new four-year term for council. City Manager, Garth Sherwin, said even with the additional year the process remains the same.
“Our departments are very good at this now. This is their sixth multi-year budget, and they are very accustom to thinking longer term and budgeting accordingly,” he explained.
The budget is in its early stages, and still needs to go through public consultation and be debated by council. The final budget will be approved on November 24th.