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City considering increase to taxes, fees
Property tax hike of 3.5 per cent floated to cover shortfall

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 1, 2015

City administration is eying increasing property taxes 3.5 per cent in the 2016 budget along with a three per cent increase to city fees for things like taking a swim at the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool or renting advertising space at an arena.

The figures were given during a preliminary budget presentation by director of corporate services Jeff Dalley at a special municipal services committee meeting Monday.

The city has had annual three per cent fee increases for several years to keep pace with rising costs of labour, materials and utilities.

Proposing a tax increase at this early stage does not necessarily mean the tax rate will go up next year. For instance, a 4.68 per cent increase was pitched for the 2015 budget at about this time last year, but council cut various projects to bring that down to a zero tax increase.

Coun. Phil Moon Son said the most common complaint he hears is about steadily-increasing tax rates and fees.

"I hate the fact that we have to raise these fees year after year after year because a lot of people become very frustrated about it," Moon Son said during the Monday committee meeting.

However, he said it's a fact they have to live with because Yellowknife isn't a city like others down south that can count on regular population growth or tax base increases each year.

That leaves the same, or smaller, population paying for services that are increasingly more expensive to provide.

Revenue is projected to increase by $477,500, with $229,500 from the proposed-user-fee increases and the remainder from assessment growth.

Spending growth includes $42,000 for a new bylaw officer position while the Municipal Price Index will cost the city an estimated $1.258 million.

The index is a measure of inflationary pressures on a municipality by taking into account staffing and service costs, as well as consumer and construction price indexes.

The city expects to find $68,400 of "efficiencies," leaving a discrepancy between revenues and expenditures of $933,400, requiring a tax increase of 3.5 per cent.

The 2016 capital budget would be $15.7 million. Water and sewer work accounts for $3.7 million, roads $3 million, and vehicle replacement $1.3 million. At the solid waste facility, there will be $3 million spent on a new landfill cell, $700,000 for centralized composting, and $100,000 for building upgrades.

Streetscaping and Harbour Plan spending accounts for another $1.1 million in Kam Lake, downtown and Old Town. The presentation did not delve into the details, however during the 2015 budget talks, several Harbour Plan park projects were cut and streetscaping was scaled back to save money.

Councillors offered little input on the proposed tax increase during the meeting. The preliminary budget is set to return for discussion at a committee meeting July 13.

"We will be looking for more input (into) whether the 3.5 per cent proposed increase will be acceptable, whether to proceed with that as a starting point and move forward, or whether or not council would like to see a higher increase or a lower increase," Dalley said about that upcoming meeting.

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