A Message from Mayor Al Bridal:
It comes as no surprise to anyone on the prairies and across the country that the financial climate has changed over the past few years. Everyone has felt the pinch of rising costs across every sector, from the gas pump to the grocery store.
As a municipality looking ahead at the trajectory of inflationary pressures, we want to be good stewards for our community. We want to be true to our values and our word, that your city is indeed, “In Good Hands”, just as we have pledged in our five-year strategic plan. To do that well, we have committed ourselves to a conservative mindset, preparing the 2023 budget with utmost care and attention, because our decisions impact your bottom line, as well as our own.
This mindset has resulted in fewer construction projects, focusing instead on maintaining our assets, or “making-do” for a little longer – with aging infrastructure, a priorities schedule must be set.
It has meant exercising patience and strategic timing for multi-phase projects over the next five years.
It has resulted in creative problem solving, leveraging a surplus from one of our higher-performing utilities to get us through this period.
It has required us to push a few great ideas just a little further out, make tough decisions and maximize efficiencies wherever possible.
Responsibilities, though, cannot be avoided, and we feel they need to be addressed openly. Certain costs are non-negotiable. The charges to literally “keep the lights on” in facilities, for example – our Federal Carbon Tax payable is budgeted to total $320,000 for 2023. We are also required to meet our commitments to three different collective agreements. Like any business, we need to adequately cover our bills and our labour costs in this budget.
It does no one any good to bury our heads in the sand – we must face financial challenges head-on and prepare with integrity. As we follow the compass of our strategic plan, we have identified goals to advance our community, strengthen economic sustainability and prosperity, enhance City operations and services, and strengthen our people, leadership, and governance. We believe we can continue to make progress toward these goals with a solid, transparent, cautiously prepared budget.
In fact, we believe that budgeting this way fulfills the mission itself of our strategic plan- improving, innovating, and fostering VALUE for our community.
So, what does this mean for you?
We will be asking you for 3.99% tax increase to help us cover these critical costs and continue to build for the future.
None of this increase is coming from construction projects – it is primarily in response to inflationary expenditures the City must incur to carry on business and maintain service levels. For example, you may not see as many large paving projects being done this construction season as you have seen in prior years, but you may notice us repair our infrastructure on a priority basis to ensure those assets are maintained well.
There are also some exciting projects that will carry over from last year, and new phases ahead for multi-year projects, some of which we have been fortunate to receive federal funding toward.
The North Hill Reservoir Pump Station Upgrade will keep moving forward to completion this year, to improve water pressure for the northeast and northwest areas of the city.
The Chinook Parkway Expansion – approximately one extra kilometre on our beautiful new pathway, connecting the network under the highway - will provide a safe crossing so that kids can walk or ride their bikes out of harm's way between the Northeast areas like Saskatchewan Valley, all the way to the Southside if they wish. We are grateful to be able to access grant funding to make this expansion a reality, with the Federal Government contributing 60% of the cost of this portion of pathway.
The Plewis Automotive Group Inclusive Park will continue with another phase of construction in 2023, thanks to both Federal and Provincial government contributions, and to Plewis Automotive Group for their naming rights agreement which provided funding upfront for critical features in the park. The park fosters inclusion for people of all abilities in our community, providing a safe, barrier-free place to gather, learn, and play. We are very proud of this achievement and wish to thank the many community members who have participated in vital consultation toward its establishment.
And, speaking of things that are vital, the software we use to conduct financial business as usual at the City is now obsolete and will not be supported after 2023. This has resulted in having to choose new financial management software to continue to operate and has also provided us an opportunity to streamline more of our processes.
We continue to believe the path forward is positive and our vision is uncompromised – that in order to keep our beautiful City a vital, thriving community in which to live, work, visit and play, we must ask for all hands on deck through the storms of inflation. With a tax increase of 3.99%, we can continue to do what needs to be done, without sacrificing the future.