Mayor and council met with city staff on Wednesday, Dec. 8, to hammer out budget priorities for next year and beyond.

City council debates budget priorities, proposed tax levy increase set at 2.75%

Staff is recommending a proposed tax levy increase of 2.75 per cent for 2022 as city council continues to parse through financial priorities as part of next year’s municipal budget.

Last year’s tax levy raised $29.4 million, while non-market change is conservatively estimated at $415,000, a general increase is earmarked at $515,072 and the one per cent dedicated road improvement tax is forecasted to collect $293,745.

For taxes and charges on a representative house, Cranbrook sits at 92 out of 161 local governments in terms of total property taxes and charges, including frontage taxes and user fees, according to staff.

The proposed tax levy was slightly reduced from 2.95 per cent that was initially proposed when budget discussions began in mid-November.

Council also passed a resolution in support of the 2022 Capital Works Program, however, projects are not approved until the budget is officially adopted.

The 2022 program includes the beginning of a major $38 million reconstruction program for Victoria Ave and 4th St. N. that will be spread out over three years. Also included in the resolution was the annual paving program and the full reconstruction of 6th St. S, from 3rd to 5th St. S as an optional project, budget dependent.

City council also passed resolutions in support of completing infrastructure remediation work in the Mount Royal neighbourhood.

The remediation work, which was funded by a settled lawsuit with the contractor at $1.75 million, was initially budgeted at $1.2 million, with the remaining $550,00 go towards a work plan that will see full depth reclamation in areas of the most severe settlement. Additional work above and beyond the remaining budget will be incorporated into future road maintenance projects.

While there was no municipal funding decision necessary, council gave staff the green light to pursue a federal grant application towards a $11.6 million Phillips Reservoir UV Disinfection Facility, which would see the installation of a new building below Philips Dam with UV reactors and onsite chlorine generation. Should the grant be successful, the feds would provide $4.6 million, the province would chip in $3.8 million, leaving the city responsible for $3 million, likely funded through borrowing.

Under the grant eligibility requirements, the project would have to be completed by Dec. 2026.

City administration removed a initial proposal for two additional full-time firefighting staff, while council also voted down a recommendation to combine a fire services review and operational assessment project, deferring it to the future when data for an updated Official Community Plan — another project currently underway — is available.

Council also supported the distribution of $1.8 million in uncommitted 2020 surplus to various reserve funds, as well as corporate staff training and development.

Council also wrestled with some financial issues raised by the Cranbrook History Centre, supporting the reduction of loan payment from $50,000 to $20,000. Additionally, a motion that would increase the fee paid from the city to the Cranbrook History Centre by an additional $10,000 was defeated, as was a request for city resources be used for landscape maintenance and snow removal.

The city continues to take advantage of a $3.75 million Safe Restart Grant provided by the province last year. Some of the remaining funds, which sits at $2.5 million, has been earmarked for city projects in 2022, such as upgrades at city hall and the fire hall training room.