Yellowknife begins week of 2023 budget deliberations
Yellowknife city councillors will spend the week poring over a 2023 budget that currently calls for a 7.47-percent property tax increase.
From Monday to Wednesday, with Thursday also available if required, councillors will use evening sessions at City Hall to scrutinize the budget line by line.
In the past, this days-long exercise has sometimes resulted in big projected tax increases being brought down significantly. However, several members of the new council – elected only six weeks ago – have suggested that approach is unsustainable.
The draft budget, released last month, proposes a tax increase of 7.47 percent, an 11-percent increase to the cost of waste management services – landfill tipping fees and the waste management portion of utility bills – and a three-percent increase to user-pay programs. Water bills are not expected to increase.
Sharolynn Woodward, the city’s director of corporate services, said earlier in the fall that expenditures would be kept as low as possible, saying there was “not a lot of room for bells and whistles.”
Cautioning new councillors last month, Woodward said a drastic reduction in tax – such as the zero-percent tax increases Yellowknife’s council passed multiple times in the last decade – would be unwise.
“We have learned over time that when we have a tax decrease or zero-percent increase, we’re simply not able to keep up with everything,” she said.
“Unfortunately, a lot of what gets cut first is maintenance. And now as we’re starting to take a more asset management-centric view of things, we realize that it’s just a short-term measure that we will pay for down the road.”
The city’s new aquatic centre, fire hall expansion, and submarine water intake line are big capital expenses that must be accommodated over the next few years.
A presentation last month stated the budget would also create around six new positions. The city says those positions are needed because its infrastructure is growing, there are more demands on programs and services, and there is more need for legal and regulatory support. (A full-time arts and culture development position was added to the budget by the last council, in one of its final moves, but could yet be cut again by the new council.)
If the proposed tax increase passes unchanged, the city has said increases of 9.89 percent and 6.04 percent would be forecast for 2024 and 2025.
For a home with an assessed value of $450,000, the 7.47-percent proposed increase for 2023 would mean paying an additional $203 in property tax next year.
You can watch this week’s budget deliberations online. Each night’s session begins at 5:30pm.