City budget open for public comment

City releases draft five-year financial plan, which includes a 4.21 per cent property tax increase

The average Cranbrook home valued at $300

The average Cranbrook home valued at $300

The City of Cranbrook’s draft five-year financial plan is available for review during its public consultation stage until end of day Friday.

The $53 million budget, which includes a 4.21 per cent property tax increase, is open for public comment this week.

“People have till 4 o’clock on Friday to comment,” said Cranbrook Mayor Wayne Stetski. “We have preprinted packages backed up downstairs, waiting for people to come and pick one up if they like, or they can download it off the city website, www.cranbrook.ca.”

After the public consultation stage is complete, council will consider the feedback then vote on adopting the financial plan.

In 2013, a home valued at $300,000 in Cranbrook would incur about $2,053 in general municipal property taxes before the homeowner grant, which equals $5.63 a day. This covers services such a police and fire, engineering and public works, infrastructure projects, recreation and debt servicing.

Utility and parcel tax fees for homes valued at $300,000 will be about $864 a year, meaning $2.37 a day. That fee is for water, sewer, garbage and landfill.

The first thing council did in discussing the budget was deciding what level of property tax increase it would be comfortable with.

“Originally when we talked, plus or minus four per cent seemed to be where we wanted to be,” said Mayor Stetski.

“When we enter the budget discussions, we know right up front that if we don’t look at some kind of an increase, it will lead to cutting services.”

The $53 million budget for 2013 includes:

• $9 million for capital projects

• $2.7 million for roads

• $2.6 million for operation of Western Financial Placce

• $1.75 million for the regional landfill

• $947,000 in financial support for organizations and agencies including the Cranbrook Public Library, Key City Theatre and Chamber of Commerce

• $570,000 for public transit

• $3.7 million for RCMP services

Council has also discussed special projects the city hopes to conduct in 2013, using money left over from the 2012 budget.

“The city does an excellent job in managing it so that each year there is a surplus that carries over. That surplus is often then used to pick off projects that otherwise would have to go into the budget and potentially increase taxes the following year,” said Stetski.

These projects include refurbishing Clocktower Square and beautifying the Elizabeth Lake entrance to the city.

Despite the property tax increase, Mayor Stetski said Cranbrook’s economy is relatively stable.

“We are really fortunate in Cranbrook that from an economic perspective we really are quite stable,” he said.

In 2012, Cranbrook issued 1,325 business licenses, an increase of 12 per cent over 2011. The value of building permits issued in 2012 was $32.9 million, a 40 per cent increase over 2011 (possibly due to the large Target redevelopment, and repairs after the July windstorm). Airport passenger usage went up two per cent to 112,762 passengers in 2012.

“Often airport usage is considered one of the bell weathers about whether an economy is stable, or going up or down,” said Mayor Stetski.