The City of Estevan has released their proposal for the 2018 City Budget on their website.
"This is administration's budget proposal to council," explained City Manager, Jeff Ward. "We'll leave that out here for about a month, hopefully everyone in the public will have a chance to look at the document and provide some feedback. Council is trying to be as transparent as possible and is looking forward to any feedback provided by public."
He adds that they are looking at a 1% tax increase.
"We think it's a very balanced approach to budgeting, a very modest tax increase while still maintaining some large capital projects such as King Street and the second water intake. Paying down debt of $4 million while terming out a loan of two so reducing our net debt by $2 million."
"We're also being very conscious of the operating expenditures. There's about eight to ten positions this year that have vacated that haven't been filled to help reduce our costs. Obviously last year we were hit pretty hard by the provincial budget in the grant in lieu reductions as well as the decrease in PST funding which comes through from them to us as a municipal operating grant. We're trying our best to be conscious of all of our operating expenditures and making sure that we can still help move Estevan forward by continuing to improve the infrastructure and reducing debt at the same time."
Ward also explained some changes he would like to see to how water main replacements are funded.
"In the past, what was done, was there was local improvements. These were improvements that were petitioned through the province to local homeowner who were being affected. These were improvements that were funded by the city and paid back over ten years, a portion by the property owners. This process is a little outdated, most cities are not using local improvements anymore. What City Council is proposing is that on each two month billing cycle, there's a $20 infrastructure fee on utility billing. What the fee is meant to do is to offset some of the cost of those improvement so there's not as much burden on the property owner."
"What they're presenting, is that we increase that fee from $20 to $30 with no change in the consumption rate so the water rate will stay the same. The only change on your bill will be the infrastructure fee. And what we would do is start creating a funded reserve of about $600,000-$650,000 a year so we can complete these water main replacements as they pop up without having to go to the homeowners for secondary funding. "
Ward also added that there are one park will see some improvements as well.
"Over the last few years, we've really looked at our outdoor pools and Public Health has changed its standards that are required on these pools. One of them is requiring a relining of the pool at Hillcrest. We did put in for funding and we did get a funding amount of $15,000. The total relining is about $50,000."
City Council will have the opportunity to read the budget, receive feedback and discuss the proposed budget before voting on it in January.
"It'll be the first or second meeting in January. Again, we encourage everyone to provide feedback to their Councillors, send an email to myself or the City Clerk or come to City Hall and have a discussion with either of us. My door is always open and we encourage feedback from the public."
You can read a copy of the proposed budget on the City's website.