The City of Yellowknife is proposing an $80-million draft budget that would increase property taxes by 1.44 per cent and incur an “unprecedented” $11-million in debt in 2019.
City administration presented the preliminary budget Monday afternoon to a newly sworn-in council. Council will examine the budget line by line before voting on it on Dec. 10.
The $11-million proposed deficit would come if council elected to move forward with both the proposed aquatic centre and replacing the city’s main water line, two of the largest capital projects in the city’s history.
“We would have to borrow $11 million in 2019 and a further $43 million in 2020, so the debt payments would be quite significant,” said Sharolynn Woodward, the municipality’s director of corporate services.
The aquatic centre currently comes with a price tag just under $50 million, of which $7 million is earmarked for 2019, the water pipeline is expected to cost $28 million, . Those prices could be offset if the city is able to secure federal funding, something Woodward says they are “actively pursuing.” The federal government installed the existing water pipe close to 50 years ago to avoid issues stemming from giant mine.
“The city is very actively pursuing federal government funding on the premise that you put it in there and you should be looking after it or helping us because it is an extraordinary expenditure,” said Woodward. “We’re also pursuing funding from the Giant Mine remediation project because, essentially, if they were doing the remediation we wouldn’t need the pipeline.”
Other notable proposed capital projects are $200,000 to upgrade the main Folk on the Rocks stage, $450,000 to enhance the Frame Lake trail and close to $3-million dollars in paving costs.
The 1.44 per cent property tax increase would result in an additional $22 per year on homes valued at $250,000 and a $57 annual hike on homes valued at $650,000. The proposed tax is smaller than the 1.86 per cent increase city council accepted in 2018 after administration had initially proposed 5.6 per cent. In 2016 and 2017 the city had no tax increases.
During last year’s budget presentation, Woodward warned council that if there was not a major tax increase in the coming years, different projects would most likely be cut. At this year’s presentation, she had a softer message to council, but reiterated that tough decisions need to be made.
“What we’re trying to get the decision-makers to do is look at the outcomes – here’s an initiative, this is what will arise from it, this benefit will occur, it will help this many people,” Woodward explained. “What we’re trying to get them to see is we have all these choices, and it’s really up to you but these choices cost money so you have to figure out how you’re going to either cut programs or raise more money.”
The city is also forecasting a three per cent increase on user fees, however Woodward noted that those are much harder to predict due to the way they are calculated.
“Usually when we see a change in the fees and charges at facilities, the budget would assume that we have a 3 per cent increase in those fees and charges, but that won’t be manifested until the spring and probably for the fall season,” said Woodward.
The city estimates that it will receive $76 million in revenue over the next year.
The full proposed budget can be found on the city’s website. The public will be able to have their say on Nov. 19 when council will field public presentations.