City ponders 4% tax hike

By Geoff Lee

December 1, 2016 12:00 AM

The City of Lloydminster is looking at increasing property taxes by four per cent to balance its 2017 budget.
The tax hike would generate $908,000 in additional revenue in 2017.
It’s one of several strategies the city is looking at to cut its deficit of $594,562 to zero by Dec. 12, when the final budget is approved.
The tax increase would amount to about $55 a year for an average home assessed at $350,000, according to Lisa Buchan, director of business services.
“I think the four per cent that we have proposed is a very nominal increase,” said Buchan, who presented the second draft of the budget to council on Monday.
“It’s quite reasonable given the scheme of the budget.”
A supporting document from the city indicated while the city’s expenses have risen by 129 per cent over the last nine years, the municipal levy has gone up by only 99 per cent.
“As the city has relatively low taxes compared to other municipalities in the region, this increase would bring the city’s municipal levy more in line with practices in other communities,” said the budget document.
The second draft of the budget presented as information to Council included $9.9 million in deficit reduction strategies from the previous deficit of $10.5 million in the initial October budget draft.
The cost cutting measures include a proposed tax hike.
Mayor Gerald Aalbers said nobody likes a tax increase, but it may be inevitable knowing the cuts to date have reduced the deficit by 95 per cent in the second draft of the budget.
“There is always an affect on everybody when we raise taxes—if we could avoid raising taxes that would be my first choice,” said Aalbers.
“Can we do without that? —I’ll have that answer closer to the next final budget.
“We’ll do our best; I realize there’s a lot of pressures on the community.”
Aalbers said everyone in Lloydminster knows of someone who is out of work as Alberta’s economy continues to struggle.
He said there is a greater requirement on the city to try to find revenue for services that may not be available without a tax hike.
“No one wants to turn back their services, so we have to come up with that balance,” said Aalbers.
To wipe out the deficit, the city has identified ways to cut costs by $3.3 million and increase revenue by $7.1 million in the second draft of the budget.
Aalbers calls the 2017 budget a maintenance year with a reduced capital budget of about $21 million with landfill site improvements, a new utility metering system and the wastewater treatment plant as upcoming projects.
He noted the city also has to continue its annual water and sewer line replacements.
“Water, sewer and streets, those are all long term investment that will serve us for a lot longer, but we do have to make sure that we do the right investment at the right time,” said Aalbers.
If it takes a tax hike to maintain service levels, that’s okay by Coun. Aaron Buckingham.
“To get the budget to where it is I’m okay with where we’re looking at it as far as that goes, but it’s always concern when you think of how are we going to maintain tax at a manageable level and try not to decrease service levels,” said Buckingham.
“I think administration has done a great job of bringing us some information to help us form those decisions.”
The need for ongoing infrastructure was also on the mind of Coun. Michael Diachuk.
“We have to be careful that we don’t get too far behind and create a large infrastructure deficit,” he said
Aalbers added it’s important that council balances that with the needs of the community today in the 2017 budget.
“There is going to be a fine balancing act and we’ll do the best we can do,” he said.

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