Canmore’s municipal property taxpayers will pay for part of the $1 million deficit in the utility rate model.
Council voted Tuesday (Jan. 18) to direct administration to prepare the 2011 operating budget for a 2.5 per cent municipal tax increase.
The tax hike is only part of the solution to address a shortfall of funds in the utility rate model as a result of decreasing off-site levies collected due to a slowdown in the development industry.
Council also voted to cut $200,000 from salaries, wages and benefits, leaving the details of where those savings will be found to administration.
The decision came after over an hour of debate in-camera when politicians considered cutting specific positions, but not everyone was prepared to move forward without more deliberations.
Councillor Gordie Miskow put forward a motion to postpone the decision based on the number of options presented, including staff cuts and service level reductions.
“I believe council needs one to two weeks to run with this information and compare the options,” Miskow said.
Coun. Ed Russell supported delaying the decision and asked for a working session of council to be scheduled as there are personnel implications.
“We are picking and choosing between options,” Russell said. “I would prefer council work on it during a working session instead of on the fly.”
Coun. Joanna McCallum was the only other voice of support for the postponement, which was defeated.
“I think these options as silos are a bit of a dog’s breakfast,” she said. “Through a working session we can sit down and find a solution agreeable to everyone.”
The combination of solutions, including the tax increase that were eventually passed by council, were proposed by Mayor Ron Casey.
“We would all like taxes to stay at zero or go down, but the truth is this isn’t a perfect world and we are trying to offset the impact of lost development,” said the mayor.
Manager of financial services Sandy Croteau detailed $165,000 in extra belt tightening on an already “extra lean” budget.
Administration had been directed by council in December to find $1 million in savings from the expenditure line of the budget.
“We tightened that belt one more notch to do more with less… but finding large additional reductions was just not possible,” Croteau said.
As a result, she said, the budget was approached differently than in the past, which saw administration plan for worst case scenarios.
Croteau said the new approach identified $302,000 in additional savings, however, it will likely affect future budget surpluses.
“This new approach would likely see the surplus diminish in size, or it may not be there at all,” she said.
Administration had recommended council find the additional $533,000 from contributions to reserve accounts.
“The total reduction is not possible without service level changes to the community,” Croteau said.