There are some changes coming for Hay River residents next year after the town passed its 2021 budgets on Dec. 14.
Under its operations and maintenance (O&M) budget, the town is planning to raise an additional $125,000 in property taxes. That will be through a targeted increase of about two per cent on certain rate classes, which are still to be determined.
The town is also aiming to raise an extra $50,000 through a targeted utility rate increase, basically on water rates. The classes to be affected are to be determined. That includes a 2.5 per cent increase for 2021 and a 10 per cent increase previously approved for 2020, but not implemented because of Covid-19.
The town will also be eliminating the two per cent early payment discount on property taxes, which will save $68,000.
There will also be what’s described as conservative increases for user fees.
There will be no increases or decreases to core service levels provided by the municipality.
The capital budget will include spending of $18.5 million, although that figure includes $7.4 million in carryovers from the 2020 budget.
Of the overall amount in the capital budget, $15.6 million will be externally funded and $2.8 million will be internally funded.
Sam Mugford, the town’s director of finance, presented the final versions of the budgets to council’s online meeting of Dec. 14.
Council members had offered their input over weeks of discussions and a public meeting was held on each budget, although no members of the public attended either consultation session.
“We heard the comments from council and we implemented a few changes,” said Mugford, noting there was a reduction in both the targeted utility fund revenue increase and the targeted property tax increase.
“We also included a vacancy rate,” he noted. “So previously the figure that council saw had no vacancy rate included as part of the salary costs and employee benefits costs. We included a three per cent vacancy rate.”
Coun. Keith Dohey thanked town administration for its work in preparing the budgets.
“I understand where we are and some things are increasing,” Dohey said. “There’s going to be some people that aren’t happy with that, as there always will be. But I think even this tonight is more of a balance than I would have thought we could have struck after a couple of weeks ago. So I want to thank administration for that.”
Deputy Mayor Robert Bouchard also recognized the work of administration.
“My concerns come in the fact that we need to continue to lobby the GNWT,” he said. “We know the town is underfunded.”
That GNWT funding shortfall is hurting the town, Bouchard added. “Not only that they’re underfunding us by a whole bunch, and they’ve admitted to it. They just don’t want to pony up to the capital or the O&M money for us. It’s frustrating with what we’re seeing from the GNWT.”
In 2021, the town will receive $323,000 in additional funding from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.