It’s not the nine per cent council started with but it’s also not the 1.88 per cent it saw a few weeks ago either.
Moose Jaw City Council has landed at a 6.24 per cent mill rate increase for 2017. Half of that is because of cuts in the provincial budget but it also includes a tax increase to partially pay for cast iron water main replacement.
Mayor Fraser Tolmie said the last four months have been difficult, more so in the last four weeks, but he supports the decisions made.
“We have faced tough challenges and the effects of the provincial government removing grants in lieu payments, which has left a large hole in our funding,” said Tolmie. “The result of this budget is based on hard work and prudent planning.”
“I’m in support of this budget because it will improve the city’s efficiency and effectiveness to face the modern day challenges that are coming ahead.”
Councillor Brian Swanson was the only one against the adoption of the budget, saying he wasn’t going to support any increase in operational spending this year. He added any increases in taxes year should have only been for capital work.
Councillors started the night with a need for a 5.51 per cent tax increase based on their decisions made over the last four months, but an 11th hour change to garbage collection created the need for an extra $181,000. Councillor Don Mitchell told his colleagues he was convinced a referendum was coming down the pipe if they didn’t revisit their decision to move to bi-weekly, front street collection.
After more than an hour, councillors felt bi-weekly, curbside collection was still the way to go, but in a phased-in approach. Some areas will switch in July while administration will work with problem areas to make the change over happen by the fall. Council also approved a motion to explore a citywide composting program to be included in next year’s budget.
When you do finally get your tax notice this summer, there will be a letter explaining the ramifications of the provincial government cuts on the city. More than half of the 6.24 per cent mill rate increase is because of those changes and the majority of councillors felt it was necessary to include some information to taxpayers because our city lost millions due to the decision made at the legislature.
Councillor Chris Warren didn’t initially support the idea, saying it just strains an already difficult relationship with the province but city manager Matt Noble said the libraries didn’t just roll over and accept their fate. They fought, protested and, in the end, had their funding restored. Warren ended up voting for the inclusion of a letter.
Swanson was against the letter, saying we never thanked the province for increased revenue sharing, why chastise them for cutting funding?