As in years past, the tax hike in the first draft of the new Yellowknife city budget is likely to shrink before all is said and done, according to one veteran councillor.

That’s a good thing for residential and commercial property owners, since that number is currently 13.44 per cent. That amount would add the equivalent of $40 per month to the tax bill of a home worth $650,000, according to a presentation posted to the city’s website. That tax bill would be $4,078 for the year.

For a commercial property assessed at $1.275 million, the same increase would add $175 per month or $2,000 per year to its $17,725 municipal tax bill.

“Wow,” Coun. Robin Williams said after the presentation, a broad smile on his face.

Click here to see the City of Yellowknife 2022 draft budget summary

Click here to see the 2022 draft budget

But Coun. Julian Morse is convinced that based on recent history, it won’t be that much.

“In my six years so far I have not seen council go anywhere close to the kind of ‘draft budget tax raise’,” he said. “It’s always a bit jarring for citizens to see the proposed tax raise (but) it’s quite different from the number that we’re likely going to land on.”

Sharolynn Woodward, the city’s director of corporate services said the draft budget represented a lot of hard work by a dedicated team, a challenge “even greater” than the first pandemic budget, last year, because the Delta variant took hold in the NWT just as staff were sharpening their pencils this time around. So, they made “very conservative” revenue projections, especially on those from user fees and programs at city facilities such as the Multiplex.

The city is experiencing “next to no” natural tax growth with just a 0.51-per-cent increase in the assessed value of properties in Yellowknife, feeling the pressure of inflation and making ends meet with what Woodward described as a $10 million-plus per year funding gap from the GNWT.

“There’s still a long way to go to close this gap,” she said.

Atop the priority list in terms of adding staff to the city’s payroll in 2022 are four firefighter positions identified as a “high priority” in the city’s 2016 fire master plan and two maintenance positions in public works.

The proposed capital budget is bloated by the cost of either repairing the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool or replacing it, the subject of a Nov. 23 plebiscite on whether to borrow as much as $10 million for a new build.

Click here to see the city’s pool referendum web page

The budget is expected to be approved on or about Dec. 13 with a week of “big questions” from councillors during the week of Dec. 6, according to Mayor Rebecca Alty.

“It is big,” she said of the proposed tax increase. “It will be a tough week and a tough month, I know, for the folks reviewing all this information.”

The draft budget is posted to the city’s website. Council will discuss the budget next Dec. 6 at 5:30 p.m.

Craig Gilbert

Craig is an award-winning journalist who has worked in Ontario, the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Alberta. He should be at least six feet away from you at all times.

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