Spruce Grove City Council has approved the 2020-2022 Corporate Plan, which is a reflection of where the City is today including reduced growth rates, a rise in debt servicing costs and reductions in provincial funding.
In recent years, the City has been in the fortunate position of having a significant amount of growth, and has made investments and decisions based on those growth rates. This includes investing in new capital projects and services, such as the new Protective Services Building, a new RCMP detachment through a partnership with the Town of Stony Plain, improved underground infrastructure and local transit, along with a variety of service enhancements to our community.
However, growth rates have now slowed down and the City’s debt servicing costs, combined with inflation, staffing requirements to resource new capital investments, and launching a local transit service, have had a significant impact on the City’s financial position.
Additionally, the recent provincial budget has resulted in a reduction in funding to the City through reduced or eliminated grants and Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding, and changes in provincial fine revenue collection.
To prepare for this year’s municipal budget, City departments reviewed both their 2019 budget forecast and their 2020 status quo budgets to determine where cost saving adjustments could be made, and as a result identified a combined $3.9 million in savings. This was accomplished by deferring or removing various initiatives, including not hiring any new full-time staff next year, and identifying only what was critical to continue in 2020.
As a result, Council will be using 2020 as a reframing year to confirm fiscal philosophies, align planning processes and review service delivery.
“We have made a number of significant investments in our city that provide our residents with a high level of service and quality amenities,” said Spruce Grove Mayor Stuart Houston. “This reframing year will be an opportunity to examine our current situation and develop a strategy that will best serve our residents both today and in the future. This is about building a great community.”
“Administration had brought forward a 5.9 per cent tax increase as an option, but Council asked for it to be brought down to 3.9 per cent and I’m pleased to say we got there,” added Mayor Houston. “I would like to applaud Council for asking the tough questions, and Administration for taking a hard look at the realities associated with growing into a mid-sized city. We are also dealing with a significant reduction in funding in the most recent provincial budget, which will be a challenge we must address as we move forward.”
The 3.9 per cent municipal tax increase for next year that is included in the 2020-2022 Corporate Plan will result in a monthly impact of $7.37 for a household with a median assessed value of $364,500.
There will be a 2.0 per cent increase in the utility rate next year, which will translate into a monthly cost of $1.67 for households with monthly consumption of 14 cubic metres of water. There is no increase to the solid waste collection rate.
Franchise fees for natural gas are increasing by 5.0 per cent, or $2.27 per month. There will be no increase to electric franchise fees. The City charges these fees to utility providers for the exclusive right to provide service and access lands within Spruce Grove. These fees compensate the City for direct costs, restrictions on planning and development due to utility rights of way, as well as inherent risks related to utility access. The utility provider then charge these costs to their customers, which typically appear on a utility bill as a “local access fee” or “municipal franchise fee”.
Additionally, Council approved a proposal to implement a new storm utility rate that would be implemented by April 2020. This utility will specifically fund stormwater related infrastructure and maintenance. The implementation plan for the storm utility rate will be brought forward to Council early in the new year. Detailed discussion will take place in 2020 that will include a bylaw, public hearing, and proposed rate schedule.
Property owners will receive their tax notices at the end of May, after the actual mill rate has been set.
Property taxes are used to pay for programs and services including policing, Fire and Enforcement Services, snow removal, parks and trails maintenance and improvements, transit services, events including the Canada Day Celebration and Christmas in Central Park, recreation and community services, and more.
Additional details of the 2020-2022 Corporate Plan will be included in the Winter 2020 issue of CityPulse magazine. The complete 2020-2022 Corporate Plan will be available on the City’s website mid-December.