Upon their election in 2017, one of the first items that the new City Council requested was a review of the 2018 budget.
“We heard loud and clear from our residents that they wanted relief from tax rate hikes,” says Mayor Marshall Chalmers. “With that in mind, we wanted to dig into the budget to see if there were any possible savings. We are pleased we could reduce the property tax requirement increase down to 0.9% while adding some needed items for our community.”
The budget process began with creating a new Strategic Plan. Once it was passed in February, related items for priorities like policing, recreation, communication and parks were added and increased the proposed 2018 property tax requirement from 2% to over 4%.
“While we wanted to include items residents cared about, we felt that a 4% increase was excessive,” says Mayor Chalmers. “We know that residents already feel the strain of municipal taxes and we committed to following through on our promise to be fiscally responsible.”
To that end, Council directed Administration to find cost savings while still working to include priorities from the new Strategic Plan.
“After going back again and removing or delaying a few items and applying unexpended dollars in 2017, we were able to add in most of the priorities outlined in the Strategic Plan and still reduce the property tax requirement,” says Interim Chief Administrative Officer Pat Vincent.
New items in the budget include creating an annual report for the community, improving recreational programs, addressing lake weed maintenance, and adding funds to ensure all approved RCMP positions are fully staffed (even during vacancies).
The approximately 0.9% property tax requirement increase means that a property assessed at $500,000 can expect to pay approximately $25 more in municipal taxes this year. The capital budget, which will not impact taxes, will be reviewed at the Council meeting on May 7.
“We would have liked to find more savings but we also need to ensure our residents are getting quality services from their City. As we begin to look at the Tax Rate Bylaw and then to our four year budget later this year, we will continue to carefully assess our spending priorities to do what we can to ease the tax burden on our residents,” says Chalmers.
More information about the 2018 Budget can be found at www.chestermere.ca/budget.