Summerside's mayor and council are getting a significant pay raise, according to the budget tabled Monday.
The increase means the mayor's salary goes up to $50,000 from $43,000, the deputy mayor goes to $27,000 from $22,000 and councillors go to $25,000 from $20,000. The total salary increase for mayor and council is 22.2 per cent.
"We commission an external consultant to review mayor and council compensation," said Summerside's director of financial services Rob Philpott.
That consultant looks at similar jurisdictions to see what officials are being paid, and makes a recommendation to council.
The budget includes no property tax hikes but does increase water and sewer rates by five per cent, and proposes a 2.3 per cent electricity rate hike.
"I think it's a good news budget," said Philpott.
He said there's an increase in economic development and this budget is prudent and planning for the future.
The city's budget document said the water and sewer rate increase of five per cent "is necessary to enable current and future enhancements to water and sewer infrastructure."
Those hikes mean an extra 86 cents per month for water and $1.94 for sewer for residential households, or a total of $2.80 a month, an amount Philpott calls "not a significant increase." The hikes will bring in an extra $52,000 for water and $114,000 for sewer.
A proposed electricity rate hike of 2.3 per cent set for March 1 of this year will bring in an extra $300,000 annually. The city said this is to keep in line with Maritime Electric's rates.
General fund balanced
The city said its general fund is balanced for the 21st year in a row.
The total operating budget is $49 million: $22 million for general government which includes things like administration, general city operations, mayor and council salaries, economic development, parks and recreation, and snow clearing. The other $27 million is for the electric utility, water and sewer. Capital improvements for the electric utility come from a different budget.
The capital budget — separate from the operating budget — is set for $11.4 million. About $8 million of that will be borrowed, while another $3.7 million will come from tax revenues. That borrowed money will be spent on sewer utility capital improvements ($1 million) and water utility capital improvements ($1.2 million). The city will spend $2.8 million on electric utility improvements and $1 million for two new fire trucks and other equipment.
There will be no increase in user rates for recreation and arts and culture programs. The city will not charge user fees or lighting charges at city outdoor recreation facilities again this year.
The city is also reducing its debt by $400,000, bringing the debt down to $68.8 million.
Mayor Bill Martin said an increase in property taxes might be considered in the next few years if expenses keep rising.
"We are accelerating it as best we can," Philpott said of the debt pay-down, adding "we're always going to have assets that require renewal or replacement."
The city plans to release a capital improvement plan that identifies about $125 million in capital needs over the next decade, Philpott said.
The city will donate $400,000 to community organizations, including $30,000 to East Prince Senior Initiative and Generation XX. Summerside Minor Hockey Association will receive $25,000.
Budget tabled early
Last year's budget saw taxes remain the same, but water and sewer rates were hiked by two per cent to raise $3.5 million for major capital improvements during 2015.
The 2015 budget also saw the city pay down its debt by $700,000.
This year's budget — Martin's second as mayor — has come in a couple of months earlier than normal.
"Organizations and entities that depend on our community grant process can know early in the year where they stand, as opposed to finding out in March," Martin said during public consultations on the budget in October.