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North Battleford draft budget calls for hikes across the board

Administration calls for increase of 6.57 percent operating, one percent capital, 4.3 per cent utilities, 5.5 per cent sewer, and five per cent UPAR.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - North Battleford residents are looking at a bigger tax bill in 2023.

City administration in North Battleford is proposing a number of tax increases impacting operations, utilities and UPAR, according to the 2023 draft budget released on Monday.

According to the budget document presented for the first night deliberations on Tuesday night, administration is proposing an operating ask of 6.57 per cent, as well as a one percent tax increase to be devoted to capital.

The reasons behind the proposed increase, according to administration, is uncertainty with the recovery from the pandemic, as well as rising police costs. 

“A significant amount of money from last year was delayed and now must be accounted for in the budget,” said Brent Nadon, the city’s Director of Finance. 

This amounts to $354,500 in RCMP costs, amounting to a 2.56 per cent increase. 

Another issue in 2023, said Nadon, was a dip in Municipal Revenue Sharing. This is due to a dip in the overall revenue sharing pool, as well as the decrease in the City’s population in the latest Census. That amounts to 1.15 per cent.

Wages and benefits also are up 2.81 per cent, and waste management costs related to the Loraas contract are going up 6.8 per cent. 

But the city's biggest challenge is the “inflationary fiscal environment,” said Nadon. He said it was a situation not faced in 30 years.

“Many people alive today don’t even understand or have never faced a situation of mortgages of 18 and 19 per cent,” said Nadon. “We’re not there and I sure as heck hope we’re not getting there, but inflation is a big impact on us. Right now it’s running at over six per cent in general, and there’s no significant reduction expected in the short term.”

He pointed to efforts to mitigate the increases including increasing their vacancy rate and leasing some of their biggest equipment now. They plan to seek more operational efficiencies in 2023.

For Utilities, the City is proposing a 4.3 per cent hike for Water Services and 5.5 per cent for Sanitary Sewer. Two per cent of the latter hike is related to the Sanitary Sewer Force Main project. Again, inflation and wage increase pressures are impacting the hikes. 

The city is also looking to increase the Underground Pipe and Asphalt Replacement Program levy by five per cent, to be specifically dedicated to sidewalk renewal for $175,000. A minor change to the UPAR bylaw will be required. The budget for the Underground Pipe and Asphalt Replacement Program for 2023 is $3.6 million for 2023.

At this point, these are just proposals. There could yet be changes made to the budget increases by council as the public deliberations unfold over the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday night, Nov. 22, marked the start of budget deliberations in North Battleford, with the focus on the first night on General Government, Operations/Infrastructure, Waste Management, and the Water and Sewer Departments.  

More budget deliberations are scheduled for Nov. 29 and Dec. 1, with start times of 5 p.m. each night at Don Ross Centre.