City gets to zero in 2018 budget
The Portage Citizen
In 2017, Portage la Prairie city council delivered a budget under the rate of inflation. Last night council delivered a budget with a zero per cent tax increase that could see a decrease in your tax bill.
“This is the first time in this council’s term that this type of budget has been passed and we are very excited about it,” explained council Finance Chair Brent Budz. In a post budget speech interview Budz described the 2018 city budget as “aggressive.”
“There’s a lot of momentum going on in our city and region right now and we are very excited about being part of. Tonight was a very aggressive step forward by our council,” Budz said. “We’re confident we can meet our budget in 2018 and basically prepare us for what comes in our future, which is looking very rosy here in Portage and region.”
The 2018 budget is pegged at approximately $39 million, up from $35 million in 2017.
The city and RM have made it abundantly clear investment in wastewater and water treatment plants is needed. “I did speak about that and there’s a lot of winners in that preparation,” Budz said. “There’s a lot of winners in terms of preparing our city for residential development and there’s winners in terms of the bridge.”
The budget includes $2 million dollars to begin work on constructing a new causeway to Island Park. Construction of the new causeway was to have begun in 2017, but unexpected costs to repair the roof at the Shindleman Aquatic Centre put the causeway on the back burner.
“We are finally going to get into it in 2018,” said Budz. “There’s $2 million dollars that is associated towards the bridge that is a multiyear project. There’s going to be a lot of base infrastructure going in in 2018 with completion in 2019.”
Budz said city council “would consider there not to be any losers in this budget. This is one that has been reactive to a lot of the needs in our city. “We’re moving more towards a risk-based approach to spending city dollars which means it isn’t necessarily just a cart blanche of a wish list, this is something that is very methodical and decisions are made on the risk associated with not doing an expenditure.”
“Again, we’re very happy with it and think there’s a lot of positives in the budget.
We were over 1.5 per cent increase last year in spending over the previous year. We’ve knocked that off and basically, again, this is the first time in my position as finance chair and I know, this council’s term, that we’ve ever come with a zero per cent increase in taxes.
We’re excited about it, especially when if you listen to some of the numbers coming out of the assessment branch. Assessments could be going down a little bit this year. That’s not been confirmed just yet, but it’s an aggressive step forward by our city to say that we are open for business and we are taking the funds and the stewardship of the citizen’s funds very seriously.”
“This is a process that becomes a little more challenging every year,” added Mayor Irvine Ferris following the budget speech. “I have said this many times, we are the top third in the province regarding mill rates and I don’t mean that in a good way. As we move more towards the centre we become more competitive and set the tone for more business growth in our community at the same time maintaining those services our citizens have come to expect.”
The city will be posting the budget speech and a video of its February 26 meeting to its website.