HUMBOLDT — Humboldt is looking at a proposed budget that would increase municipal levies by 4.58 per cent in 2024.
City staff presented a 150-page document at a Dec. 4 meeting of city council that proposed a 5.5 per cent increase.
“Given the situation of the current economic stress that many are under right now, I’m not certain that is a feasible tax increase for our citizens,” said Michael Behiel, Humboldt's mayor, at the start of the meeting. “I’d like to see that shaved in half, have some breathing room, hopefully get everything back in line by next year. Through these budget deliberations, we can see where we can find some cost savings.”
In the report it said, “that it balances a tax increase with spending and initiatives to address the city’s long-term, sustainability needs while maintaining a tax increase that rivals other cities.”
Notable cost drivers in the 2024 budget include cost increases from policing, utility costs, property and liability insurance, and fleet expenses. Increases in revenue from unconditional grants, interest revenue, and other user fees all helped to offset the cost increases.
After council examined each budget line item and cut some proposed expenditures, the increase was lowered to 4.58 per cent. Joe Day, the city manager, said 4.58 per cent would make Humboldt the fourth most favourable of Saskatchewan's 16 cities. He said the proposed budget would balance the need to be affordable for ratepayers, while being able to pay for new capital construction needed to keep the city growing.
Behiel said that although he wished the city could trim more down, the city does need to stay the course and that being the fourth lowest tax increase out of the 16 cities would be acceptable.
The proposed budget included:
- Over $19.5 million in revenues, and
- approximately $14.8 million in operating expenses,
- leaving approximately $4.7 million available for principal payments and reserve contributions.
The 2024 capital projects that were approved were:
- 12th Ave - Stebbings Crescent to 21st Street at a cost of $568,040.
- 11th Street - 6th Ave to 8th at cost of $357,000.
- 4th Street - 8th Ave to Ogilvie Ave at the cost of $196,300.
- 12th Street - 3rd Ave to 4th Ave at the cost of $149,100.
- 3rd Ave - 11th Street to 16th Street at a cost of $81,400.
- 4th Ave Road - 10th St West Lane - 14th Street at a cost of $566,900.
- 6th and 7th Avenue Storm Sewer Outfall Twinning Storm at a cost of $670,500.
A North Hospital Development at a cost of $700,000 was discussed in depth and was defeated pending a January report.
The Wastewater Treatment System projects will have a total cost estimated to be approximately $40 million. The City has incurred approximately $1.39 million in expenditures to date, leaving approximately $38.6 million required to complete the project. The project was approved for the Investing in Canadian Infrastructure Grant that will cover approximately $24.97 million, leaving the City requiring $13.64 million to fund the project. A significant portion, if not the entirety of the outstanding portion required to complete the project will be covered by a new external loan.
The City of Humboldt has an approved debt limit of $15 million. The City of Humboldt currently has a total debt at the beginning of 2024 of $2.5 million. For the 2024 budget, $318,097 of the city’s revenues are required to service debt.
New community safety officer rejected
Staff presented a request to hire an additional community safety officer (CSO) Manager/emergency measures (EMO) co-ordinator position.
Mike Kwasnica, director of protective services recommended, “that having a second CSO would not only provide more coverage from week to week, but also would fill a gap when the one we have now is either on holiday or gone for training. The neighbouring RMs and communities are interested in an agreement for service which we are exploring.”
Councillor Roger Nordick said that he was uncertain about the need to hire an additional CSO and EMO position with Councillor Amanda Klitch agreeing that more information is needed on whether an administration position would be more beneficial.
City council defeated the motion to hire an additional CSO/EMO co-ordinator and moving forward, the city will look into more formal and financial contributions and potential contracts with surrounding RMs.
New full-time public works position, water treatment facility project co-ordinator rejected
Peter Bergquist, public works director, recommended that the city replace the two seasonal skilled labourer positions with a full-time skilled labourer position as well as approve an additional public works full time employee (FTE).
Bergquist also recommended to hire a term full-time project co-ordinator for what he explained as the largest single municipal project in the cities history, the new Wastewater Treatment Facility. Bergquist said that the term position would be a welcome addition to the team demonstrating the city’s ability to keep pace with a growing community by better positioning the department in the successful execution of this significant project.
City council approved the skilled labourer position as well as the utility operator in training position. After deliberations among council, City council defeated the motion to hire a term contract project co-ordinator.
Parks and recreations labourers hours boosted
Michael Ulriksen, director of community and leisure services, requested to increase building maintenance hours from 2.66 full-time equivalents (FTE) to three FTEs, convert a part-time seasonal parks labourer to a full-time position, and increase parks general worker position hours from 1.63 FTE to 1.92 FTE.
Council approved the building maintenance position, parks labour position and parks general worker position.
Facility maintenance projects include:
- Uniplex LED Lighting (Common Areas) Year 4 of 5: This will be the 4th year of a five year plan to upgrade all lighting in the Uniplex to LED and the first of two years to complete the common areas including the convention centre, fitness room, offices, washrooms and main lobbies at a cost of $25,000.
- Uniplex Lobby Air Conditioning Unit: We currently have no AC unit serving the main lobby and concession areas. This has become a more significant issue the last few years due to the high temperatures and needs to be remedied at a cost of $15,000.
- Museum Roof Repairs: Temporarily seal any cracks in the metal roofing or cornice that may allow water to penetrate the wall assembly and repoint only severely deteriorated mortar joints. Develop plan for replacement of upper roof at a cost of $20,000.
- Fire Hall – LED Lighting: Replacement of lighting in Fire Hall with LED Lighting at a cost of $5,000.
Municipal police services and contracting the RCMP for policing services was discussed. Day said the city is currently is in its eighth year of a 15-year contract. If the city wants to look at developing its own police force, there are many factors in this decision to consider.