City council's 2019 budget deliberations began this week with staff presenting a proposal to the finance and audit committee that would see a five-per-cent increase to the property tax levy.
A hike that size is not a foregone conclusion, however, as the committee directed staff to develop scenarios for three- and four-per-cent increases to see how those would affect city services.
"This was the very first meeting of the finance and audit committee for the year so this is the first initial discussions," committee chair Coun. Garth Frizzell said Friday.
"It did identify what the big cost drivers are going to be, so if there are three- or four-per-cent options, that would mean looking at changes to service levels."
The scenario presented to the committee calls for a $5.2-million increase to the levy with $1.5 million of that going to snow control and $1 million to each of road rehabilitation and the Employers Health Tax.
The remaining $1.7 million would account for general increases to items in the existing budget.
Staff is recommending raising the snow control budget to $8.5 million after projecting that spending on the item will finish at $9.7 million for 2018 due largely to the major dump in February.
However, in the name of fully accounting for the true cost of the service, winter sand expenses adding up to $1 million have been transferred from roads to snow control over the last two years.
And, due to the volatility of the amount of snow that can fall from one year to the next, staff is suggesting a reserve be created equal to $2.125 million or 25 per cent of the $8.5 million budget it's proposing.
As for road rehabilitation, staff is recommending that budget be increased to $6 million and include bridges, urban lanes and gravel roads in that budget. All three are currently funded through other reserves.
To replace the Medical Services Premium, the Employers Health Tax comes into effect on Jan. 1, and will add up to 1.95 per cent of the city's total payroll, according to staff. In all, city staff salaries and benefits are set to rise by $2.1 million in 2019.
Overall, city expenses are projected to go up by $7 million while revenue is to go up by $1.8 million of which tax base growth is to account for $1.47 million, leaving a shortfall of $5.2 million.
The 2018 levy stood at $103.7 million.
Along with Frizzell, Mayor Lyn Hall and councillors Frank Everitt and Cori Ramsay sit on the committee, which met Wednesday.
The full report is posted with this story at princegeorgecitizen.com.