Posted to the city’s website, the first draft of Prince Albert’s 2013 budget shows a 3.6 per cent tax increase.
“That is not the true increase,” Mayor Greg Dionne clarified. “That’s how it sits today.”
The city’s elected officials have yet to make most of their decisions regarding the budget, meaning that much could change before the final document is approved by April.
The 3.6 per cent increase represents the budget without “approving any other special projects or external funding -- so, we have some challenges going ahead.”
Although more items are likely to be added to the budget, other items might be removed to make room. Earlier this week, council laid the groundwork for administration to cut 15 per cent of fuel and electrical use from all city facilities.
Next week, Dionne is going to make a similar motion regarding water use, which facilities don’t pay for.
“When you don’t pay for something it doesn’t affect you,” Dionne said. “In one of the buildings I was in, the water tap was leaking, the urinal was leaking and so was the toilet -- but, they don’t pay for water, so who cares?
“We pay for water, and I care.”
The tentative budget includes revenues of more than $61 million, with taxation covering about half.
Budgeted expenditures total $55.7 million, with the balance transferred to the city’s reserves.
Some items within the tentative budget document, such as pre-set wage increases, are outside of council’s hands, but the document also includes a long list of budgetary decisions council must make before finalizing a budget.
The document as it currently stands includes only $2.06 million for the city’s roadways recapping program.
The city has confirmed that $4 million needs to be spent annually in order to keep the city’s road conditions as they currently are – a figure that doesn’t address a current backlog of $27 million.
“The non-linear nature of pavement performance curves suggest that underfunding of road maintenance has the potential to induce a ‘downward spiral’ that may be very difficult to reverse if the yearly backlog of rehabilitation work continues to grow,” city administration’s budget document reads.
At no point do I want people to think that just because we approved it that it’s going to be shelved until next year. - Mayor Greg Dionne
Not included in the proposed budget is $131,700 of additional funding requests over the previous year that external agencies are making their cases for.
Dionne has proposed a funding freeze on such external agency funding until council’s had a chance to look over their books and review their financial plans.
The city’s elected officials will take part in two daylong services review meetings, including ones from 3:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.
Budget consultations will take place on March 11, beginning after the regular city council meeting, during which time citizens will be invited to speak to city council.
On March 15, city council will sit down at 9 a.m. to hash out their final budget document, continuing the next day, if necessary.
All of these meetings will take place in council chambers and will be open to the public.
With the city’s latest batch of elected officials only a few months into their latest, and for three of them, first term, this year’s budget won’t be fully indicative of the current council’s vision, Dionne said.
“At no point do I want people to think that just because we approved it that it’s going to be shelved until next year,” Dionne said. “We’re going to work on it weekly, actually … Be patient with me until the 2014 budget.”
During this week’s city council meeting, the city’s elected officials passed a utility rate increase that will see the average residential user face a 10.4 per cent price jump.