It’s looking very much like a status quo budget for the City of Charlottetown.
Coun. Melissa Hilton, chairwoman of the finance committee, will begin her annual operational forecast at noon Wednesday at City Hall.
And, considering it’s an election year, residents are all but guaranteed there will be no tax increase.
Residents narrowly dodged a tax hike two years ago when back-to-back brutal winters left the city in the red to the tune of a $1.5 million deficit. Thanks to some help from the province, such a tax hike was avoided.
This year, it certainly helps that Charlottetown has had such a timid winter, so far, but keep in mind that municipalities are now under the new Municipal Government Act, putting out 15-month budgets rather than the standard 12. That’s because the fiscal year for municipalities will now match the provinces, April to April, rather than the calendar year. This year, there are three extra months to account for.
“With regards to snow, it’s been great for our budget, absolutely, but when we look at this 15-month budget we’re actually looking at two winter seasons,’’ Hilton said.
“Who knows what’s going to happen late fall or into the winter next year because the budget goes to March 31 of next year.’’
So, it meant some adjustments for the city’s finance people.
“This is something new, and it took a little while to wrap our heads around it because . . . you’re trying to figure out why these line items have increased,’’ Hilton said. “Well, they’ve increased because it’s actually 15 months as opposed to 12.’’
Last year the city approved an operational budget of $49.54 million and a Water and Sewer Utility budget of another $9.9 million.
Also helping with municipal budgets is the new municipal funding formula which injected another $2 million into the coffers of communities in the current fiscal year. The old grant-based system is gone, and municipalities now receive a grant of 10 per cent on all eligible capital expenditures.
Hilton said the province still holds back a fair amount of the property taxes it collects from residents in Charlottetown.
Mayor Clifford Lee hinted in an interview with The Guardian earlier this year that residents might see a tax decrease in the budget. While Hilton wasn’t commenting on that Tuesday, a tax dip isn’t expected.
As for street maintenance, the city is expected to maintain the status quo there. In 2016, the city budgeted $1.8 million for roads and increased it to about $3 million last year. The city is expected to spend roughly the same in today’s budget.
As for other costs such as the cost of parking in the parkades or on the street, those aren’t expected to go up.
It’s an election year, after all.
“I hope it’s a good news day (today),’’ Hilton said.