Yorkton Council unveiled its 2019 operating and capital budgets Monday giving Yorkton residents a first look at what will likely be approved in terms of spending in the city in the year ahead.
While the budget is being posted on the City’s website to allow for residents to review and comment, it is unlikely Council will entertain any dramatic changes when the dual documents return to Council Jan. 21 for expected passage.
The final numbers are pretty much what Council was looking for as they directed City administration to hold any tax increase to less than three per cent, a target achieved as the proposed budget includes a 2.9 per cent increase in taxation revenue for the 2019 year.
The budget includes a very modest 0.9 per cent hike for future capital projects, and 2.0 per cent for all other operational expenditures, explained Ashley Stradeski, Director of Finance with the City at the regular meeting of Yorkton Council Monday.
Stradeski also noted, operating increases do remain below the estimated 2018 Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 2.8 per cent (August 2018 value), through efficiencies and cost reducing measures.
On the operating side of the budget the City has to be congratulated for keeping the increase to taxpayers under the CPI. Holding the line is essentially a zero net increase in spending beyond inflation.
The questions start when looking at the capital side of the equation.
The increase of 0.9 per cent will mean virtually no new dollars when you start to factor in increases in any capital projects based on inflation year-over-year.
It should be remembered a one per cent tax increase at the municipal level in Yorkton generates only about $235,000, so there will be very few new dollars to invest in capital projects.
And that should be troubling to residents when the condition of city infrastructure is considered.
The majority of streets and arterial roads in Yorkton are aging and in poor condition. A report circulated at Council Monday noted, “Without continued increases in funding it would take approximately 99 years to repair/replace the existing road network in its entirety.”
Think about that for a moment. A portion of Broadway Street was recapped with pavement this summer. The remainder is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2019. The work did not venture to replace aging underground pipes and sewer lines, but was largely cosmetic, a bit like a band aid when a heart bypass would have been wiser.
But it fixed the bumps in the road for a time, although it won’t survive the 99 years mentioned above.
So while the 2019 budget might be appreciated for its modest tax hike, it might be pushing added costs to our children because at some point the infrastructure deficit will need to be tackled in far more significant way than an asphalt recap.
And, to his credit Mayor Bob Maloney did add a note of caution in that regard.
“Our deficit in infrastructure continues to grow. We’re not catching up,” he said, adding he would have been happier with a bit higher increase dedicated to setting aside funds to deal with aging infrastructure. “… We are increasingly falling behind.”
Yes we are, and in that light maybe the 2.9 per cent increase is not as good a decision as a first quick look might have suggested.