Snow removal funds draw discussion at Friday budget meetings

Snow is cleared from a city sidewalk. File photo

City council spent plenty of time discussing snow removal and how the City funds it during the third day of budget deliberations at City Hall.

Councillors asked questions about how a $60 tax that was to be directed to snow removal is allocated and why the snow management reserve has a deficit of $615,887.

“We have a $60 base tax, how much money does that $60 base tax bring in?” asked Mayor Greg Dionne during the meeting on Friday, Nov. 19.

The base tax collects about $1 million annually, he was told. 

“I’m trying to relate the base tax to how we got to the deficit,” Dionne said

Dionne said he wanted to know specifically what happens to excess money brought in by the base tax if it is not used up in snow removal operations. 

“I don’t know what the origination of the snow levy was, or how it was originally presented, but we don’t normally charge it to the reserve like we do in some areas,” said Cheryl Tkachuk, director of financial services. “It just basically gets in with our property tax pool.”

TURN — Mayor and council raise concerns about base tax collection after snow management reserve shows $615,887 deficit

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Dionne said in his memory, council was told that the levy was created so that $1 million could be raised annually for snow removal. 

“And then, it was my understanding, if there was a credit in there – if we only spent $700,000 – it would go into the reserve,” he said.

The reserve was to be built up so that if more than $1 million was needed, the money would be available in the reserve. 

“It’s no different than the police levy. The $35 is totally going to those four officers. It’s not going into their tax pool. They can only use it for those four officers,” Dionne said. 

Financial services was asked to go back and find the start of the levy and apply all the revenue from the levy to the chart to see what the reserve should be at. 

Other councillors also opted to weigh in. 

“Do we have enough money in this account to cover some of the shortfall” asked Coun. Tony Head. “I’ve been asked by some of the residents about making sure that we in budget deliberations ensure we have enough coverage.” 

He agreed that the levy should be allocated directly to snow removal. 

Coun. Dawn Kilmer said that residents need to be aware of how the money is spent. 

“That information is really critical that our residents see us as totally transparent,” she said. “We are doing an excellent job, the best we can with what they have asked us to do with the money we have set,” she said.

“I totally agree that the money we raised on snow removal, needs to be spent on snow removal. Just like the money we raised in the $4 million we just spent on repaving,” said Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick. 

The budget presented is accurate, he said, he just wanted to know the dollar values attached to the levy itself. 

Residential, condo, and care and group home properties are all charged $60 annually for the snow and infrastructure tax but commercial properties pay based on their value, starting with a minimum of $125 and going up to $4,700 for a property with a taxable value of over $5 million. 

There are two snow removal budgets. 

One covers down town and has a proposed budget of $154,700 this year, an increase of $4,200 from last year. 

The budget for the rest of the city was budgeted at $967,990 in 2020, but administration wants it bumped up to $1.1 million, an increase of almost $150,000. 

Together, the budgets share a reserve (savings) account, which now sits at a deficit of $615,887.

Council continues budget discussions on Saturday, Nov. 20.