Moncton staff have proposed a 2024 budget with a slight tax rate cut for most residents.
City councillors went through the details of the proposed $212-million operating and $50-million capital budgets for the province's largest city on Tuesday.
"We are able with this budget to sustain existing service levels, and we're again making sure that we take care of our inflationary pressures," Jacques Doucet, the city's general manager of financial services, told councillors.
The city's operating budget is up from $189 million this year, driven in part by inflation and higher interest rates, as well about $7 million in new spending.
Jacques Doucet, Moncton's general manager of financial services, outlined the budget to council Tuesday. (Shane Magee/CBC)
Doucet proposed a strategy to counter the higher interest rates.
He said staff are proposing using about $26 million held in reserve for a new police station to instead cover the cost of other capital projects. That would allow the city to avoid borrowing and paying a higher rate on that work.
Doucet said using the $26 million for the police station, which is expected to cost $57 million, would effectively subsidize Dieppe and Riverview, which are also helping cover its cost.
"We cannot use that … reserve to apply it to the building because we want to make sure that Dieppe and Riverview pay for their fair share of the building," Doucet said.
The new police station in Moncton is expected to be complete in 2025. (Roger Cosman/CBC)
He said the strategy, which wasn't opposed by councillors who spoke Tuesday, could see Moncton save more than $10 million on interest costs.
The budget includes:
Making a street cleaning program through Downtown Moncton Centre-ville permanent.
Starting the planning of a new outdoor pool.
Hiring four more firefighters.
Hiring four more RCMP officers.
Creating three positions to help with winter snow clearing, summer road-line painting and bike lane infrastructure.
The total number of municipal employees is set to reach 752.5 full-time equivalent positions, up from 725. Some of the increase is from making casual positions full-time.
Doucet said the city is in good financial health and has been able to propose a tax cut, as expenses rise, because of higher property values.
The tax rate is proposed to drop by 1.5 cents, from $1.4443 in 2023 to $1.4287 per $100 of assessed property value, for most of the city.
If approved, it would be the third year Moncton has cut its tax rate. The rate was cut by 10 cents in 2022 and 2023.
However, the figures are still subject to change as budget talks continue this week before final approval expected on Thursday.
Several motions will be considered Thursday that would add about $200,000 in spending.
Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold listens during a city council meeting about the 2024 budget. While the budget as presented Tuesday has a lower tax rate for most of the city, it proposes an increase for some new residents. (Shane Magee/CBC)
Coun. Daniel Bourgeois has also asked staff to consider presenting options to see residents paying a lower tax bill.
While the budget as presented Tuesday has a lower tax rate for most of the city, it proposes an increase for some new residents.
A five-cent increase is proposed for residents in areas added to the municipality Jan. 1 as part of the province's local governance reforms.
While the rate is proposed to be reduced for some residents, they could still face higher overall tax bills because of rising assessment values set by the province.
The city's tax base, the total amount of property values, increased 12.2 per cent to reach $11.4 billion. That's driven city revenues higher, allowing it to cover rising costs while also cutting the tax rate.
It is also proposing a $50.2-million capital budget, which covers things such as rebuilding roads or upkeep for municipal buildings.
The capital budget also lays out future projects.
The city has included more than $25 million in 2025-26 for "downtown facilities."
"That could include a market, that could include a potential convention centre, potential riverfront amenities," Doucet told council.
The city's downtown plan from 2018 called for relocating the Moncton Market to make way for a new east-west street.
A convention centre feasibility study was carried out earlier this year and was expected to be complete by now, but has yet to be presented publicly.
Deliberations are expected to continue Wednesday.