Steinbach city councillors voted unanimously to support the 2021 financial plan, presented Tuesday. Described as "aggressive" and "well-rounded" by Mayor Earl Funk, the plan includes a 2.5 percent budget increase, while keeping the mill rate of 13.7 unchanged from last year.
Residents will experience no change to utility rates but will see a 2.8 percent increase in fees for residential garbage collection and a 2.5 percent fee increase for land use applications and permits.
The budget also includes $12.6 million for new capital improvements including $8 million for the events centre, $3.1 million for road and water service on Acres Drive, $2.6 million for road surface renewal on Park Road East, Penfield Drive and Appleton Place, $2.4 million for underground infrastructure renewal on Brandt Street and $1.4 million to replace a tandem dump truck and landfill crawler.
Steinbach will bring in more revenue this year thanks to a property value growth of 2.6 percent.
In their presentation the city said a home with an average market value of $207,500 would result in city property taxes of $1,279.24. That’s not even half of the total tax bill residents will get as education taxes, which the city must collect, are estimated at 53 percent of the total tax bill.
The city will take on $4.6 million of new debt specifically for the Brandt Street project, Acres Drive construction and Clearspring Greens Pathway. Total debt balance at the end of 2021 will be $9.3 million.
The city uses a 2.0 mill rate to service debt, and this year $2.2 million will be paid back including $178,000 of interest.
Mayor Earl Funk said it was exciting to see a mix of larger and smaller projects in this budget, including items like the dog park and basketball court and the first funds towards the $42.5 million events centre.
"This is the first budget the events centre is on," he said. "It’s a very aggressive project for a community our size."
Although the city is still waiting on grant approval for the events centre, Funk said he believes that will come.
"We’re always very hopeful and I’m trying to be positive," he said.
Funk said a budget with small and larger projects that doesn’t raise taxes is ideal. "It’s important that we hold the line on taxes, that we keep our community affordable to live in," he said.
Steinbach has had a policy since the ‘80s of only paying off debentures over five years, instead of up to 20 like many other municipalities. Funk said that allows them to take on new projects quicker, and ensures they aren’t stuck paying for items long since built.
Coun. Michael Zwaagstra agreed. "That enables us to do so much more than if we were hamstrung with 20 year interest like so many other municipalities," he said.
Zwaagstra too noted the mix of large projects, infrastructure renewal and smaller projects.
"We’re doing all of this in a fiscally responsible way," he said.
Other expenses this year include $855,000 for waste reduction and recycling, $402,500 for the Jake Epp Public Library, $224,000 for beautification, $65,000 for Summer in the City Festival, $58,000 for Dutch Elm Disease prevention and $30,000 for Canada Day activities.
Departmental costs include $9.5 million for labour (35 percent of operating budget), $4.2 million for police and fire services, $4.1 million for recreation services, $4.1 million for water and wastewater services, $2.67 million for transportation services, and $2.6 million for solid waste services.