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Municipal government considering tax increase

The City of Lloydminster may be raising property taxes in 2017.

According to the second draft budget brought forward to city council on Monday, the municipal government of the Border City is seeking to raise property taxes by 4 per cent, in order to generate $908,000 in additional revenue next year.

A brief overview of the municipal tax rate in Lloydminster was part of the budget documents, and indicated that for the past nine years, the City’s expenses have risen by 129 per cent, while the tax rate has gone up by 99 per cent.

Chart on historical expenses. Source: City of Lloydminster Draft Budget #2
Chart on historical expenses. Source: City of Lloydminster Draft Budget #2

“From 2007 to 2016, service levels have increased; however, the associated increase in expense has not been consistently supported by a mill rate increase,” states the documents.

“Rather, the increase in expense has been supported by other less sustainable revenue sources, primarily utilities and land development, which have been used to fund general operations – this has resulted in artificially low tax rates.”

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The documents go on to state that due to the City having lower taxes compared to other municipalities in the region, the 4 per cent increase would bring Lloydminster’s tax rate “more in line” with other community practices.

However, the possible raise is not yet set in stone, due to the final budget approval coming down next month. The second draft was accepted as information-only by council on Monday. After the meeting, Lloydminster mayor Gerald Aalbers indicated that it was too early to say whether or not there would be an increase.

“There is always an effect, on everybody, when we raise taxes,” said Aalbers.

“Certainly, I heard it very clearly, if we could avoid raising taxes, it would be my first choice. That would be the first thing I’ll take back into budget deliberations and discussions. Can we do it without that? I’ll have that answer closer to the final budget.”

Aalbers also said that he understood the current economic pressures on Lloydminster.

“I know people in my neighborhood, my neighbours, down the street, are unemployed,” said Aalbers.

“So, that doesn’t help things. We all have people that we know that are unemployed. There’s a greater increase on the requirements for us to try and find funds. So, how do we do that without (raising taxes)? No one wants to turn back their services, so we have to come up with that balance, and the administration, though and with council support, with our input, will work towards that.”

The raising of taxes was one of multiple strategies out forward to help the municipal government balance the budget in 2017, which also included asset sales and the deferring of equipment replacements.

Lisa Buchan, Director of Business Services for the City, said that balancing the budget was a “daunting task”.

“From the time we presented in October, administration went back with a fine toothed comb over other things, identified different strategies, different initiatives going forward, not really through one specific area but really looked at the global picture,” said Buchan.

Buchan also said she thought the proposed four per cent increase was “quite reasonable”, and said budget development always took place with the impact on residents in mind.

“It’s always first and foremost,” said Buchan.

“The City definitely operates with the respect and the nod to the residents in mind, and I think in the four per cent that we have proposed, it’s a very nominal increase.”

A statement from Buchan sent out after Monday’s meeting of council indicated that the yearly impact of the raise would be an additional $55 on a home assessed at $350,000.

City council went in-camera following Monday’s public meeting, to further discuss the budget. Final approval will be put in place on the council meeting of December 12, 2016.

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