Administration submits draft budget with almost $6 million tax increase

Prince Albert City Hall -- Herald file photo.

The draft budget that Prince Albert city council will start examining in a few weeks includes an estimated $5.8 million increase in tax revenue along with a $3.2 million increase in expenses and a plan to have a $4.7 million operating surplus.

This year, council asked staff for a line-by-line budget in order to take an in-depth look at how the city earns and spends its money.

“On occasion it is important that members of Council see this level of detail in each department,” said Mayor Greg Dionne in a media statement. “It encourages good discussion with administration and openness with the public about what accounts for the spending in each department.”

The City separates its budget deliberations by fund, and has allocated four days starting on Nov. 17 to consider the largest portion, the general fund.

Included in the general fund are services like police and fire, streets, transit, parks, building maintenance and administrative costs.

Most of the costs in the general fund are paid for by property taxes and levies. For 2022, the money needed to balance the budget is $4.5 million.

Some money comes from external sources, like an increased provincial grant for policing of $566,000 but that extra money is offset by a forecasted reduction of $340,000 in a different area of grants from the province 

Every $320,000 increase in budgeted expense equals about a 1.0 per cent tax increase when applied to the general municipal mill rate from taxable properties, reads the summary of the budget submission.

As it stands, administration is proposing revenues of $75.3 million and expenses of $67.5 million, which would leave $7.9 million for capital projects and transfers to other funds.

Once various other factors are accounted for, the City would spend $5.7 million on capital or one-time expenses, and shift $6.2 million to reserves.

This year’s submission includes all items referred to the budget committee over the last year along with items being proposed by administration.

Some highlighted capital expenses in 2022 could include $4.1 million in roadway recapping, $400,000 in sidewalk and curb and gutter rehabilitation, $100,00 in sidewalk connectors, $107,000 for senior residence sidewalk replacement and $225,000 to upgrade the parking lot at City Hall.

The City has separate funds for sanitation, the water utility, the airport and its land fund. Deliberations on those budgets will happen starting Dec. 1 and lasting until Dec. 3.

While staff prepare the draft budget, it is up to council to trim or change where desired and adopt a final document for next year’s use, usually done in January.

Once the budget is adopted and the province has set the education taxes, council can adopt a mil rate so that tax bills can be issued, generally done late spring.