WEYBURN – Weyburn city council unanimously passed the 2022 budget of $30.5 million for the city with an increase of 4.58 per cent in property taxes, at their meeting on Monday evening.
The tax bill will include a base tax of $710 on every residential property in the city, which is an increase of $40 from last year.
The base tax covers the cost of police, fire and snow removal and street sanding, with police seeing a budget increase of 5.5 per cent, fire has an 8.5 per cent increase, and the budget for snow removal was decreased by 2.6 per cent. Broken down by department, police services will get $489, fire services $163 and snow and sanding costs will be $58 for a total of $710.
Coun. Jeff Richards gave kudos to all of the department heads, noting that council put pressure on every division to pare down their budgets to the absolute necessities.
He noted that for a homeowner with a tax bill of around $2,500, the increase in taxes will amount to about $114.
“It’s the cost of doing business, as all of these things cost money,” he said, commenting that as an example, the cost of fire protection is less than most people pay for Netflix.
The budget process took about three or four months to work through, said Coun. Mel Van Betuw.
“What I keep getting told is that revenues are down, and we should cut expenses. We’ve reduced expenses as much as we can cut, but everything keeps going up,” he said, adding that every department has been running as efficiently as possible.
“Times are tough, and it’s a minimal increase. We all want our streets cleaned, garbage picked up, and this is the cost,” said Coun. Van Betuw.
“Anytime you see a tax increase, you think, ‘this is too much’,” said Coun. Dick Michel, who pointed out the city is embarking on a new infrastructure revitalization program this year with a cost of $700,000.
He also noted the Credit Union Spark Centre is open and running, and said, “It’s incredible what goes on there.”
Mayor Marcel Roy pointed out that part of the increased costs for the city is the ongoing downloading of expenses by the provincial government.
Highlights of the budget include that this will be the first full year for the operation of the Spark Centre; the police are transitioning from .40-calibre Glock to a 9mm Glock as well as welcoming a new K9 unit to the police service; the Fire Department is upgrading their protective clothing, and are also getting extrication equipment and an air compressor; and the rooftop air handling equipment at the Weyburn Leisure Centre is being replaced.
In addition, walking paths will be resurfaced in the city’s parks; the tree pruning and inventory will continue in 2022; new traffic lights will be installed at First Avenue and Government Road; and the annual program of upgrading of storm sewers, curbing, pedestrian accessible ramps, hydrant valve replacement and sidewalk trip hazard repairs will continue this year.
The taxes comprise 38.9 per cent of the city’s revenues, with reserve funding providing 23 per cent, fees and charges about 22.8 per cent, grants about 13.4 per cent and investment income around 1.85 per cent.
This year’s budget also includes capital spending totaling $5.915 million, which will include some of the upgrades and new equipment in city facilities, along with fleet purchases including five half-ton trucks, a maintenance truck, a front-end loader and a tool cat for public works.
On the base tax, with the greatest amount going to the police department, Police Chief Jamie Blunden pointed out that in comparison with other cities, Weyburn’s police has the lowest percentage of total costs in the city budget of any city in the province.
“We’re fairly fiscally responsible. We are the lowest cost compared to other police departments,” he said.