Jasper municipal council passed its 2023 budget on December 6 with a $1.08 million or 4.45 per cent increase over the 2022 tax requisition. All of council voted in favour.
To a residential ratepayer who owns a home assessed at $900,000, the increase represents a $105 annual jump; to an urban-commercial ratepayer that owns a $5 million commercial property, the 4.5% bump amounts to a $2,913 yearly hike.
“I’m very proud of this budget,” said councillor Wendy Hall, who made the motion to approve it.
Mayor Richard Ireland spoke to Hall’s motion. He noted the budget increase is larger than he would have hoped, but that he appreciated the work council has done to soften the impact on taxpayers by including funds from paid parking revenues and a Covid-19 financial stabilization reserve.
“I am guarded by the size of the increase but I have been convinced the increases address priorities that council has agreed are priorities of the community,” Ireland said.
Councillor Helen Kelleher-Empey also spoke in favour of the budget.
“I think our strategic plan is a step into the future,” she said. “This is one of the best budgets I’ve seen.”
Since November 15, over three different sessions, council deliberated for more than 30 hours on the 2023 budget. Up to 17 new staffing positions had originally been proposed by administration, including 12 “base” positions and 5 “optional enhancement” positions.
After lengthy discussion, the approved budget includes three of those optional positions (a Housing Coordinator, a Fund Development Coordinator, and an Asset Manager) as well as whittled-down allotments for planning and development services and environmental and energy coordination.
Highlights of the 2023 capital budget, which was also approved unanimously on December 6, include:
- $40,000 to fund a trailer to store and potentially ship cardboard recycling
- $60,000 for a tin bailer to make recycled tin easier to sell to recycling brokers
- $50,000 for a solar power feasibility study at the waste water treatment plant
Increase in utilities levies to pay for aging infrastructure
Council is facing a 15 per cent increase in solid waste fees and an eight per cent across-the-board increase in utility fees for 2023.
Part of that increase is due to a $270,000 ask by the regional waste authority for a new landfill cell. It will be collected over two years, according to administration.
By law, Jasper’s utilities must be user-funded and achieve cost-recovery. Jasper has made some progress towards cost-recovery in this area but the municipality is still not collecting enough in user fees to meet its capital replacement needs, according to operations director John Greathead.
Improved asset management practices are helping pin down a more accurate cost of providing services, according to Greathead, but Jasper has another debenture (borrowing cost) coming online for the WWTP in 2024, so funding requirements in utilities will be ongoing.
“We have a lot of aging infrastructure,” Greathead said during his budget presentation. “That infrastructure has to be maintained and funded through user fees.”
Bob Covey // firstname.lastname@example.org