N.B. looks at proposed utility rate increase at budget meeting

By Angela Brown
December 5, 2017 - 12:00pm

North Battleford residents may be facing a utility rate hike of either 4.23 per cent or 4.5 per cent in city hall's proposed 2018 budget

Council received reports on utilities, infrastructure and capital costs in the second night of its budget deliberation meetings Monday.

Mayor Ryan Bater said council will need to decide on the options.

"I think the decision here is whether council wants to have a slightly higher rate based on consumption fees for utilities, in order to help pay down principal on long-term debt. That's the decision council has to make before Monday," he said.

Bater said while the 4.23 per cent increase would keep rates lower, the 4.5 per cent increase would help pay down the city's long-term debt, which he said "is also important to city taxpayers." 

"Every councillor is going to have to evaluate their priorities there and will have to come to a decision collectively on Monday," the mayor added. 

"A lot of work went into this [budget] document so council has to weigh the information being presented, and some specific decision points including the utility rates," he added.

Administration also presented proposed plans for waste management, infrastructure and capital spending.

Administration also said that council will need to decide whether to approve community grant increases requested by several organizations at the first budget deliberation meeting. The grant increases were not included in the proposed budget, so if council approves an increase that isn't budgeted then that will result in higher taxes, beyond the proposed three per cent increase.     

As far as capital projects for 2018, the mayor said the city will be focusing on the essentials.

"We're pretty much down to need projects," said Bater. "There is not a lot of frivolity in this budget. Administration did a very good job on getting down to the needs of the city, and keep that need for increased property taxation at a minimum."    

He said following the provincial budget cuts last spring, many residents were expecting the city's administration would recommend a higher property tax increase for 2018.

"To keep it down to three per cent is actually a fairly significant achievement," Bater added.   

The next budget deliberation meeting, focusing on protective services and planning, will be held Wednesday starting at 5 p.m.

Council is expected to make a decision on approving the new budget at its meeting Dec. 11. 

"Council will have to make some decisions on a couple of points. But if any councillor wants to suggest changes to the budget, that's what I would expect they come up," said Bater.


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