Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 budget coming down tonight - Cuts? | City faces tough decisions
(excerpts from article published by the Dialy Gleaner, December 20/10)

Fredericton's 2011 general fund and capital budget will be on the desks of city councillors tonight in its final form. Councillors last week wrapped up a budget preparation process that was mostly done in public. That means the public hasn't had to wait until tonight's formal budget meeting to know what the 2011 tax rate is likely to be.

For the first time in two decades, council has decided to drop the rate by a half cent. The decision was hotly debated with five councillors suggesting the city should hold the bottom line to try to insulate itself against future funding cuts by the provincial government.

Forecasts for assessment growth from 2012 to 2015 are below the 4.88 per cent tax base increase the city saw over the past year. The tax base is the total value of all taxable property in the city. In 2015, the city suggests growth will drop off to 3.50 per cent.

The city's tax rate is $1.4261 per $100 of assessed property value. The rate went up 0.85 cents in 2010. The proposed 2011 tax rate reduction will shave between $7 and $8of the total tax bill on a $150,000 house. However, given that assessments went up 2.37 per cent for most homeowners, property owners are still going to be paying higher taxes in the spring of 2011.

Finance committee chairman Mike O'Brien said the budget will maintain most services and show the public that the city is running a tight ship.
"We'll be bringing down a budget that we can maintain the services that people expect and deserve and also show them that there's some fiscal restraint.
"We tried our best to keep costs as low as possible. There is a slight tax decrease. It's not a large amount, but it's the responsible thing to do," O'Brien said.

"We did have to raise some fees and some fares to generate revenue. That was unfortunate, but some of those hadn't been visited for years and we'll rectify that in future.'' The city is planning to schedule more frequent reviews of fees so that it doesn't have to implement large hikes in cases where fees haven't been adjusted for years.

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