The 2024 budget process began in earnest last week with the tabling of a series of the budget directions, timeline and public consultation process before the finance and corporate services committee. Perhaps most importantly of all, the directions, timeline and public consultations have all been set with a tax target of no more than 2.5 per cent.
The budget directions also include a proposed 2.5 per cent increase in user fees such as recreation fees, facility rental rates, membership fees and transit fares.
A property tax increase of 2.5 per cent will generate approximately $51 million. Projected growth is expected to generate an additional $30 million in tax revenue for a total increase of $81 million, $32 million of which will go to offset increase costs in policing, transit and other services. That leaves $49 million which, when combined with additional savings and service revenue initiatives, will yield $62.5 million which can be allocated to other city services.
The public consultation process will begin now and run into December, including formal budget consultation meetings to be held in November and early December once the draft budget is tabled on Nov. 8.
Following the tabling of the draft budget, the various standing committees will meet in to consider their portion the budget. Residents, businesses and community groups will be able to take part as public delegations, as well as participate in any councillor-led public consultations on the draft budget.
Council will then consider and adopt the final budget on Wednesday, Dec. 8.
While city councillors ponder the 2024 budget process, they must also address the city’s current financial status which is currently in a deficit situation.
During the finance committee meeting, staff outlined that the second quarter of 2023 ended with a $16.8-million deficit for property-tax-supported programs, while rate-supported services, such as water, sewer and storm water, ended with a $538,000 surplus.
The year-to-date tax-supported deficit was driven by the winter season and extreme weather. The overall year-end forecast for tax-supported programs is projected to be a deficit of $6.6 million. With a projected surplus of $710,000 for rate-supported programs, the result is an overall expected deficit of $5.9 million.
Staff will come forward with an explanation as to how the deficit will be addressed during the preliminary budget process.
In the meantime, members of city council will begin the process of lobbying for specific projects that are important in their respective wards.
City council was expected to receive and adopt the 2024 budget guidelines and consultation process, including the 2.5 per cent tax increase ceiling during their meeting on Sept. 13.