Council approves 2018 operating and capital budgets

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Airdrie City council approved a $140.1 million operating budget and $53.6 million capital budget for 2018 at its Dec. 4 regular meeting. These are significant increases from 2017 when council approved a $130.3 million operating budget and $37.5 million capital budget.

“(The operating budget) includes $100 million to deliver tax-supported City services and about $40 million to deliver services for water, sewer and waste management,” said Lucy Wiwcharuk, director of finance.

While Airdrie’s population growth will help offset some of these costs, residents are still facing a 4.08 per cent property tax increase. In 2017, the property tax increase was 0.63 per cent.

The increase to the property tax will add approximately $6.82 per month to the average homeowner’s property tax bill, which includes an increase to the Fortis franchise fee. Utility costs are also going up – most of which are out of the control of the City as these are provided from the City of Calgary, which sets the rates – with an impact on the average homeowner of $8.66 per month.

Coun. Ron Chapman asked what the rate increases from the City of Calgary were and Wiwcharuk said these increased by 7.5 per cent; however, the average Airdrie utility bill is increasing by only 7.2 per cent.

According to Wiwcharuk, the City does not yet know what residents will pay in education tax as this is set by the provincial government and will be announced when the new provincial budget is brought down in the spring.

Wiwcharuk said most City services saw no increases in the 2018 operating budget. An exception is Airdrie Transit, which will receive an additional $524,000 to provide new transit services including the OnDemand service and increased frequency to CrossIron Mills mall and the City of Calgary, launched in September.

A grant to the Airdrie Public Library will increase by $87,300 to $1.88 million and Airdrie Housing Limited will see an increase of $10,000 to $170,000.

With an eye to increasing community safety, the new budget includes approval to hire six additional RCMP officers, with two officers specifically tasked with dealing with the issue of mental health in the community. The six new officers will be hired to begin June 1, 2018, and increase the City’s contract with the RCMP by $590,000.

Airdrie’s recycling program is having a positive impact on the operating budget, according to Wiwcharuk. Waste and Recycling will see an overall decrease of $1.1 million as a direct result of the curbside recycling program introduced in the spring. The City will spend $210,000 in 2018 to continue to provide recycling bins at City facilities.

Capital projects for 2018 include $29 million for a variety of transportation and infrastructure projects, including $3 million for the Yankee Valley grade separation and $10 million for roadway projects on Yankee Valley Boulevard and 24 Street south into the new communities.

Airdrie Transit will receive $2.4 million for the construction of bus shelters, transit zone improvements and the purchase of new buses and rehabilitation of aging buses.

Council unanimously approved the 2018 operating and capital budgets as presented. The 2018 utility rates and an increase to the Fortis franchise fee were also approved by council.

“We have very much vetted what was provided and we all believe – it was unanimous for the first time, I believe, for a number of years – this is a good budget going forward that meets the needs of the community,” Mayor Peter Brown said.

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