City budget increase comes in at 1.87 per cent

It started out as a 1.5 per cent increase for the 2018 city budget, but after several ‘enhancements’ were approved, the increase comes in at 1.87 per cent.

It’s still lowest budget increase in more than a decade.

The 2018 Financial Plan, put forward by director of finance Kris Dalio, provides for general operating expenditures of $131.1 million.

“This amount excludes taxes collected for and remitted to other levels of government and/or taxing authorities in the amount of $43.4 million,” states his report. “A taxation increase of $2,740,000 is required to maintain core service levels and funding for contractual commitments. There are no recommended changes to the other city tax levies. The combined total taxation increase for 2018 is proposed to be 1.50 per cent, which includes an estimated offset of $1,231,074 in non-market change tax revenue.”

The enhancement council dealt with was a request from RCMP Supt. Warren Brown for funding for two more officers. The request was a follow up from the previous two years during which increases were given for three and two more officers respectively.

The increase in 2018 would be $116,328, a 0.12 per cent increase to the tax levy with the officers starting in September. Next year, however, it will be a 0.24 per cent increase.

It did generate some debate around the council table.

“That is a concern to me,” said Coun. Brian Skakun. “… One of the big concerns I have is the offloading and downloading and the fact the RCMP are doing parole checks at night.”

He added that it takes officers off the streets. He added he supported funding one new member, but not two.

“I’m reluctant to solve the problem by continuously adding to the escalating costs of policing,” said Coun. Terri McConnachie, who also opposed adding two more officer.

Council, in a 7-2 vote, approved the two new members.

After the experience of housing 10,000 evacuees last summer, council also moving the emergency program coordinator position from part time to full time at a cost of $134,000, an impact of 0.13% to the tax levy. Coun. Garth Frizzell opposed the proposal.

Council also approved hiring two bylaw compliance assistants, from May 1 to September 30, at a cost of $52,577.

In addition, the Starland Park playground was also approved.

Acting on a previous recommendation that was moved to budget discussions, council has decided to decommission the ice plant at Canada Games Plaza.