City council approved its 2013 budget on May 13, and also implemented a base tax and a new $75 levy which will go toward constructing a long-term senior care facility.
The city had a total of $13,768,245 in revenue and $13,762,553 in expenses which resulted in the budget being passed with a surplus of $5,692.
Despite the surplus, the city took on a debt of $4,000,000 debt to fund the new lift station, which is considered as revenue, with the sum being implemented in next year’s budget as an expense.
Mayor Gary Vidal said the 9th Avenue lift station, which is needed to pump sewage as the city grows, is by far the most significant part of the budget, but also pointed out items such as $1.2 million of public works capital investment, which will go towards things like laying asphalt, paving the new subdivision, replacing pedestrian crossing and repairing curbs and streetlights.
“Those are all significant things because they’re all part of how we’re going to tackle our infrastructure challenges,” Vidal said. “That’s a million right there of infrastructure (improvements).”
He also pointed to items such as a $9,500 emergency generator at the fire hall, which would allow the building to serve as an emergency service centre in times of electricity outages.
“$9,500 may not seem like a big deal, but when it comes to an emergency some day, having emergency backup power is a pretty big deal,” Vidal noted.
Other significant capital investments include $200,000 for a new freight liner dump truck and vacuum truck, and $140,000 for improvements and additions to the basement, fan, slide and roof at the aquatic centre.
The tax adjustments will see the introduction of a base tax, which is a new way to calculate property taxes across the board. The base tax is supposed to make the city’s property tax system more fair as it doesn’t solely rely on assessed property values.
“We provide equal services to everyone, but we have certain segments of the property owners who pay a vastly greater share of those services because of the fact that property taxes are historically based on assessed values,” Vidal explained.
“So we made a bit of a shift to say that we wanted to start the process of saying you know what, there should be an element of this taxation process where everyone pays some equal share of some of these core services,” he added.
The base tax is $100 for bare land and $250 for lots with a building.
“That doesn’t mean we’re going to add $250 to everyone’s taxes,” Vidal said. “It’s just part of calculating the actual property taxes people will pay … it’s a component in the overall calculation.”
The other components are the property’s assessed value and the city’s mill rate.
The city predicts the change will shift some of the tax burden from higher-assessed homes to homes in the middle range of assessments.
“The other component based on the valuation will have a bigger impact on some of the higher value homes,” Vidal said.
A $75 levy will also be placed upon every residential and multi-unit residential property. That’s expected to raise $177,000, with $117,000 going to build a proposed senior long-term care facility and $50,000 going into a trust fund for future capital expenditures.
“We decided instead of waiting and taking on debt in the future, let’s start saving for it now,” Vidal said.
While the changes are significant, Vidal doesn’t believe residents need to worry about a massive hike in taxes.
“Some people’s taxes will actually be reduced because of the fact that their assessments changed … at the end of the day no one will see a real drastic change. At the end of the day we’re talking an average of five percent (increase),” he said.
City manager Richard Levesque said he expects the reduction in school taxes to somewhat offset the increase. Residents should expect a tax notice by the end of the month.