City of Yellowknife proposes 5.36 per cent tax hike

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This year’s municipal draft budget proposes a tax increase higher than any the director of corporate services Sharolynn Woodward can remember.

At Monday’s municipal services committee meeting, Woodward presented a preliminary draft of the 2018 budget. This is what Woodward describes as a “30,000 foot view” of what will be presented at November’s budget deliberations. The draft includes a proposed 5.361 per cent tax hike which would make up for a projected $1.4 million revenue shortfall.

This would approximately $147 to the average household’s property taxes, according to Woodward.

“We don’t have crystal balls, it’s just an expectation,” Woodward told Yellowknifer, explaining the expectations are based on “the best available knowledge.”

In 2017, the tax rate increased 1.234 per cent, however according to data provided by the city, that isn’t keeping pace with inflation.

“It’s telling to note that over the past decade and a half the cumulative change in the city’s tax rate has been almost 32 per cent,” Woodward told councillors Monday. “Whereas the change in the MPI (Municipal Price Index) over the same time period is approaching 50 per cent.”

The MPI, compiled by the Conference Board of Canada, is a way of tracking inflation faced by municipalities.

“In a perfect world our tax increases would kind of keep pace with that,” Woodward told Yellowknifer.

While the city is estimating a $599,850 revenue increase in 2018, expenditures are also anticipated to grow. As of Sept. 18, administration is projecting expenditures to total $1,616,389.

Woodward said a $741,224 sized chunk of that is thanks to “forced growth” or expenditures she says the city doesn’t have “a lot of control over” like salary increases, fuel prices and vehicle operating costs, while another slice goes to new projects.

The Street Outreach Service, or the safe ride van, is the biggest of those new projects, ringing in at $360,000. Other expenditures include $30,000 for road and sidewalk maintenance, $100,000 for the Homelessness Employment Program, $75,000 for the Anti-Poverty Strategy and $115,000 for a revenue specialist.

Some councillors are not enthused by the numbers.

“I was elected to keep the cost of living in mind for the citizens of Yk,” stated Coun. Steve Payne. “I will not support frivolous spending, and try to keep the tax increase as low as possible … There are always more economic ways to conduct business, we just need to find ways to do that.”

He didn’t elaborate on what would qualify as “frivolous spending.”

Coun. Adrian Bell, who attended the meeting over the phone, said while overall he saw some “positive aspects” in this budget, he has reservations.

“There are I think many capital projects that I likely won’t be able to support,” he said.

Coun. Niels Konge declined to comment, stating he needed more time for a thoughtful answer.

The public is invited to share thoughts at Monday’s council meeting.

Monday will also see the launch of an online survey where people can chime in with what they think budget priorities should be.

The draft budget will be presented Nov. 6, with the last opportunity for public input on November 20. The final budget review will be December 4 to 6.

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