After deliberating them for a month, Airdrie City Council approved the 2019 operating and capital budgets at their council meeting this week.
The operating budget was approved at $150,090,870 while the capital budget came in at $20,217,460. Next year's budget will raise an additional $4,734,730 in tax revenue to support city services and sustainability.
Lucy Wiwcharuk, Director of Corporate Service and Chief Financial Officer for the city says by far the bulk of the tax increase of 8.47 percent will go to address the need for public safety.
"Of that (nearly) $5 million, $2.9 million will be used to pay for an additional four firefighters, it'll be used to pay the annualized cost of six officers that were added in 2018. Two more RCMP officers will be added in 2019 and there's also another five RCMP administrative staff to handle the increased load and the work over at RCMP."
Council also approved putting over $1 million in tax stabilization reserves which Wiwcharuk explains will be used to ease the spikes in the operating costs when the city brings on a new library and fire hall. She says a new library is planned in the next couple of years.
So what does the tax increase mean to the average homeowner in the city?
Wiwcharuk says in 2018 an average Airdrie home assessed at $404,000 had a tax bill of $1,700. In 2019 that bill will be $1,844. However, the city has been able to negotiate favourable rates for Waste and Recycling Services and for City of Calgary water and sewer services that have resulted in additional savings of $90 per year for the average household. Once you factor in a two percent increase charged by utility companies which amounts to an additional $15 cost for the average household, you get a total tax increase of $69 annually or $5.75 per month.
Wiwarchuk says council included $230,000 in financial resources in the budget to launch the City's Economic Strategy which aims to build revenue streams to diversify the economy of Airdrie, revitalizing the downtown and shifting the assessment split to be less focused on residential.
"It's very exciting for Airdrie," she says. "Going into 19, teams across Airdrie will be working together in order to implement various aspects of that strategy. It is a ten-year strategy so they'll begin moving forward with different elements of that."
$105,000 is included in the budget to implement council's newly endorsed youth and domestic violence strategies.
Wiwarchuk says for the capital budget, in the next three years, the city's spending is projected to be in the $20.2 million to $103.6 million range annually. Wiwcharuk explains the large variation is dependent on the timing of the projects.
"We usually do have around $50 million in capital projects that the city is working on. IN 2019 there are a number of projects that have design dollars starting, for example for the library. What you're seeing is just a small bit of money in 2019 to get going and then in 2020 is when a library is planned to be built. The other significant project going into 2020 would be the underpass on Yankee Valley Boulevard."
The budget was passed by council, but not unanimously. Mayor Peter Brown and Councillor Al Jones both voted against it. For Brown's part he said he agreed with 99 percent of what was contained in the budget and only had problems with a few of the increases.
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