Weyburn’s city council passed the 2021 budget of $35.9 million with a 1.6 per cent increase in taxes, with capital projects and purchases to total $12.3 million.
In addition, residential property owners and condo owners will be paying an increase of $10 on the base tax, which goes from $660 last year to $670 this year. The amount of the tax increase was not calculated in dollar amounts, as the mill rates have not yet been set for 2021, said Laura Missal, director of finance, in presenting the budget details, adding, “It’s not a huge increase this year.”
The budget was the main discussion at Monday’s meeting, the first of the new year, held via Zoom in respect of COVID restrictions in place in the province. This meeting format was used last spring when the major lockdowns went into place.
Some of the budget highlights for the City for the coming year include completion of the Credit Union Spark Centre, under construction along with the Legacy Park Elementary School on Fifth Street; completion of the fleet storage facility, in behind the Public Works shop and fire hall (at 50 per cent as of Dec. 31); and completing the replacement of the HVAC system for the Weyburn Leisure Centre, a project held over from 2020.
The Spark Centre is about 90 per cent completed as of Dec. 31, but there will be a commissioning of the facility, plus purchases of equipment for it, such as the simulators and the play space equipment, which will need to be installed before it opens in September in conjunction with the new elementary school.
There are plans for a new fleet vehicle for the Weyburn Police Service, along with the hiring of three new recruits; new extrication equipment, pagers and rope rescue equipment for the Fire Department; and funding of $377,625 to the Southeast Regional Library, the same amount as in 2020.
For city parks, there are plans to replace the dugouts for the Jubilee Park ball diamonds, paving more trail pathways, and implementing an annual tree pruning and inventory program in the city.
The City wants to complete paving Riverfront Road to the Soo Line Historical Museum, do road repairs on Ebel Road, replace a bridge on Highway 13, repair the traffic controller at Second Street and Souris Avenue, and repair the sidewalk at the Spark Centre.
For the City’s Utilities, there are plans to replace a watermain on Allen Street; do the engineering design for replacing Lift Station 3; dredging the lagoon; repairing the reservoir liner on First Avenue; and to do various improvements at the water treatment plant to improve water quality.
The total budget is $35.9 million, with the operating budget for 2021 at $19 million; a utility and landfill budget of $4.6 million; a capital budget of $9.2 million for general operations and $3.1 million for utilities; and transfers to reserves of $900,000. The total of expenses paid out of reserves is $8.8 million.
The base tax for 2021 will be $670, an increase of $10 from last year, and will be paid by the 3,480 residential property owners and 760 condo owners. This will bring in $4,642,758 in revenues to cover the net costs of police, fire along with snow and sanding expenses for the roads.
The base tax is 61.45 per cent of the taxable levy, with commercial and other categories paying the balance, said Missal.
Coun. Mel Van Betuw noted that the base tax is levied against all residential and condo properties as everyone has equal use of these services.
Property taxes will bring in about one-third of the city’s budget, around $11.6 million, with reserves providing a quarter of the needed funds ($8.8 million), fees and charges raising $6.5 million or 18.1 per cent of the budget, and grant funding providing $4.94 million or 13.8 per cent. External loan funding will provide $3,644,500 or just over 10 per cent, and will be used towards paying for the construction of the Spark Centre facility.
Missal also noted that tax dollars don’t pay for infrastructure projects generally, as these are paid for by grants or from reserves.
• In other council business, the Weyburn Police Commission chose a new chairman in Ron McCormick, as Mayor Marcel Roy stood down as chair.
Mayor Roy noted that his youngest son, Preston, is one of the three new recruits hired by the Weyburn Police Service, and he stood down as chair so there would be no perceived conflict of interest on the police commission. He will remain on the commission.