At its regular meeting on Monday, Lloydminster city council voted against a proposed 1.25 per cent increase to the city’s mill rate, opting to keep the rate the same as last year, going against the recommendation of the finance department. This means forgoing a projected $26.9 million in tax revenue and accepting an estimated $250,000 loss.
Voting in favour of the motion were Mayor Rob Saunders and councillors Lachlan Cummine and Jason Whiting. Councillors Chris McQuid, Larry Sauer and Ken Baker voted nay. Coun. Linnea Goodhand, who would have held the tiebreaking vote, was on vacation.
With the recommendation defeated in deadlock, McQuid put forward a new motion to keep the mill rate at 2014 levels. This time the vote passed 5-1 with only Baker in opposition.
“What administration was asking (for) I don’t think was unreasonable, but it was just more (about) what we have going on in our local region right now,” McQuid said. “We obviously know there’s a downturn and people are losing their jobs and we have a new provincial government (and) we don’t know what’s going to happen with that yet. There’s a lot of uncertainty, so I just felt that it was a little bit more responsible to maintain the mill rate from last year.”
Saunders originally supported the rate increase, but following the discussion in council, subsequently voted to keep the old rate.
He says through surveys, residents have expressed an interest in increasing funding for protective services, road systems and infrastructure, which could come from increased taxation. But he thinks residents will be happy that council is trying to keep property taxes from rising.
“Families expect a certain standard of living, so we were making sure that we were trying to satisfy all the wants, needs and wishes in the community,” Saunders said. “Council had this opportunity to fully discuss and vet out and take into consideration the economy and things that are happening right now, so I think we’ve struck a good balance.”
The budget originally called for a 7.4 per cent mill rate hike but it was determined that only 1.25 per cent would be sufficient to cover a 3.15 per cent increase in expenses. This would have cost average residents with a monthly assessment of $351,000 an additional $23 on their tax notice each month. The commercial mill rate would have stayed the same.
Baker, who voted against the increase and against the status quo, says that keeping taxes low means dropping the mill rate below 2014 levels. He said he would prefer if any tax increases were tied to inflation.
In the meantime, the city is left to fill a $250,000 hole in the budget.
“I think as a result of this ... meeting the senior leadership team will sit down and we’ll talk about it and we’ll see where we can find those efficiencies, whether in operations or capital,” city treasurer Nicole Reiniger said. “If that’s what council wants, we’ll make it happen for them.”