Mill rate drops but taxes rise in Steinbach


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Large capital projects took centre stage as Steinbach council approved the 2023 financial plan after a public hearing on Tuesday.

Council voted unanimously to accept the $30.4 million budget, representing a 5.6 percent increase from last year.

The mill rate will drop by 2.8 percent to 18.7 mills, but increased assessments will cause tax bills to rise.

In his presentation to council, Steinbach senior manager of finance Brian Hrehirchuk explained that an average dwelling with a market value of $217,000 can expect to pay $1,337.81 in municipal taxes this year. That’s up by $56.21 from last year for the average dwelling, representing a 4.4 percent increase.

However, he notes that because it’s an assessment year with the average assessment increase of 10.8 percent, the numbers will vary.

Highlighting this year’s budget are capital projects including $43.5 million for the events centre and $23.8 million for infrastructure for projects including the Loewen Boulevard and Highway 12 intersection, a lift station upgrade and the upgrading of Park Road West. A further $3.7 million will be spent on equipment replacement including a new ladder truck for the fire department and landfill compactor. Underground infrastructure renewal will take place at the Loewen Boulevard and Highway 12 intersection, Barkman Avenue and Park Road West.

Coun. Michael Zwaagstra made the motion to approve the budget, saying he felt they did a good job balancing their needs and citizens’ ability to pay.

“There’s a lot that we are getting for the money we are spending,” he said. “I think what we’ve come up with is a good budget for this year.”

He highlighted the Southeast Event Centre as the biggest capital project the city has ever done.

“It’s not even close,” he said of second place. “The second largest project we’ve ever done is our secondary water treatment plan and that was only $11 million.”

He credited a series of fiscally responsible councils for creating an environment where they could invest a larger amount of money in the event centre project and praised their policy of retiring debt quickly.

“It means we are not hamstringing future councils with projects, rather we’re ensuring that everything is paid off within five years.”

Total debt is on the rise, however. The city is borrowing $3.75 million for the event centre, $3.5 million for the Loewen Boulevard and Highway 12 intersection, $2 million each for the lift station upgrade and fire department ladder truck and $1.12 million for the Barkman Avenue Renewal.

That’s $12.4 million of new debt, while $2.1 million of old debt will be paid off.

Total debt for the city is projected to be $14.3 million at the end of 2023.

Councillors have long praised the five-year amortization term as a way to save money on interest. Currently Steinbach is paying an average of 2.42 percent interest on outstanding debt.

“I believe this is a fiscally responsible budget that at the same time is also aggressive and also ensures that we are meeting the needs of Steinbach today and also in the future,” Zwaagstra said.

Coun. Jac Siemens spoke up to reflect on some of the numbers, including what Steinbach is responsible for. He highlighted the 140.5 km of road surface, 200.1 km of underground pipe infrastructure and impressive numbers at the aquatic centre which in 2022 gave 86,000 public swims, and 42,000 swim lessons, one of the largest programs in Manitoba. The city also looks after 260 acres of green space and parks.

“We have to understand what we as a city are responsible for,” he said.

Mayor Earl Funk described it as “a very good budget” saying it reflects their priorities of infrastructure renewal and investment into cultural and recreational facilities.

“We’re committing ourselves to today Steinbach as Coun. Zwaagstra said and tomorrow Steinbach,” he said.

Grants for 2023, some of which reflect pass-through funding from other levels of government include $385,680 for the Jake Epp Public Library, $210,000 for the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce, $155,400 for the Steinbach Arts Council, $95,000 for accessible transit, $65,000 for Summer in the City, and $52,500 for the Mennonite Heritage Village.

Other grants include $18,000 for STARS and $8,000 for Headway.

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