City councillors have approved the 2018 mill rate, which will see a nearly 11.5 per cent increase.
Monday night Lloydminster councillors held a meeting to have the rate approved. The mill rates calculated in the bylaw will provide the $30.5-million municipal levy and the $4.6-million capital levy.
“This was an item that wasn’t taken lightly,” said Mayor Gerald Aalbers.
Property assessments dropped this year, so if someone’s property dropped in value by four per cent, then their total tax increase will be 7.5 per cent.
The city’s operational reserves were $177,000, which is something Aalbers noted is not sustainable.
“If something does go sideways, we didn’t have the resources to cover it. We would be digging into a budget and cutting from day-to-day operations. So, I think everyone would like to have some type of a nest egg if possible to ensure there is a little bit of money for those unforeseen circumstances,” he explained, noting land sales have also been down within the last couple of years, which used to provide revenue for operations.
Coun. Ken Baker said he hasn’t seen this type of tax increase before.
“(Nearly) eight per cent tax increase, I’ve just never seen it, that I can recall in the last 20-25 years in the City of Lloydminster,” he said.
Baker added the community has hit tough times like many over the past years with the oil industry.
“We have a lot of people that necessarily can’t afford the tax increase, and you can’t pick and choose. A tax rate is what it is, we have to live with that and I’m always concerned about if we have to raise the taxes much above inflation, because salaries aren’t necessarily increasing at the same rate. So, it does bother me,” he said.
This year city council has also been trying to wean the city off of using utility revenues to keep property tax low.
With the need for a new wastewater treatment plant, the city needs that revenue to go towards those payments.
“Once we have the wastewater treatment plant funding program in place, we move to construction, and we will have a better idea and we will see some costs come into line,” he said.
Aalbers said the way they are moving this city is in the right direction of being fiscally responsible, but well grounded.
“To have a better grounding on financial stability. One concern that I have is I don’t know what next year’s budget for the two provinces will look like, and that is something I don’t want to guess on,” he said.
If there was no tax increase, Aalbers said they would have to ask then “what services do we cut?”
Coun. Jonathan Torresan said no one ever wants their taxes to increase, but it was a necessity they had to do.
“At the end of the day it has to happen,” he said, noting it’s an important factor to weaning the city off relying on land sales and utility revenues.
“Those are just not sustainable options moving forward. We still have very competitive rates relative to most other places in Alberta and Saskatchewan. I’m not happy about it, but I’m proud of the fact this is the right direction of where we need to go to get our city to a sustainable funding source.”
Tax notices will be printed and mailed this month with taxes being due June 30.