New Brunswick

Moncton proposes holding tax rate steady, hiking water rates in 2019

Moncton’s proposed 2019 budget holds the city’s property tax rate steady, though hikes water and sewer rates as well as bus fare.

City councillors are looking at a draft budget that would increases water, sewer rates and bus fares

Gregg Houser, Moncton's acting chief financial officer, and Marc Landry, the city manager, outline the proposed 2019 budget to council Monday. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton's proposed 2019 budget holds the city's property tax rate steady, though raises water and sewer rates as well as bus fare.

City staff gave a general overview of the $155.8-million operations, $45.5-million capital and $39.4-million utilities budgets during Monday's council meeting.

There are still several more steps before the budget is approved, which may change whether the tax rate stays at $1.6497 per $100 of assessed property value.

"We are able to present a balanced budget on the operating side," Gregg Houser, Moncton's acting chief financial officer, told reporters after the meeting.

"That means no rate increases for taxpayers. Assessment goes up, so there may be small increases that way, but overall we're holding the budget at the [same] rate."

The city projects a 1.25 per cent increase in the assessed value of properties in the municipality.

The city's tax rates are applied against the assessed value of properties. An assessment increase means the city receives more money, even if the tax rate stays the same.

The city's tax base dropped 0.25 per cent to $8.06 billion in 2018. The provincial government will confirm the city's tax base value later in the year. 

The city's assessment growth peaked about a decade ago, according to the city. 

A chart shows the percentage changes in Moncton's property assessment value since 1999. Last year, the total value of properties in the city dipped by 0.25 per cent, though it is expected to increase in 2019. (Submitted)

Houser said the biggest challenge for this budget was the assessment growth. While it represents added revenue, the city faces higher costs from inflation and wage costs that are increasing by 1.5 to two per cent.

"So you have to look at areas — where can we hold costs or reduce costs and be more efficient and where are areas that we can actually grow and manage the budget," Houser said.

Property taxes are expected to generate 86.5 per cent of the city's revenue, while equalization payments from the province provide 3.5 per cent.

The city's assessment value increases when new buildings, like the hotel on Main Street beside the Avenir Centre, are constructed. (Shane Magee/CBC)

The city is projecting to bring in $934,139 in additional revenue compared to 2018 from other sources, such as fees.

That includes a guaranteed payment from SMG Canada, which operates the new Avenir Centre for the city. The payment includes a fixed amount plus a percentage of revenue from things like tickets and concessions.

Other increases

Houser said the city also will raise bus fare by a quarter to $2.75 for a single adult fare.

The utilities budget includes an increase in the water and sewer rates. The average yearly bill will increase $33 to $1,058. 

Houser said some of the upcoming 2019 capital projects include rebuilding Lutz Street between Main Street and Assomption Boulevard. It also includes funds for the north end community centre

There's also money for artificial fields at the CN Sportsplex and Moncton High School, Houser said.

'No surprises in the budget'

There was little discussion of the details of the budget Monday.

Coun. Blair Lawrence said councillors were aware of much of the information from regular updates provided by staff. 

"For us, there are no surprises in the budget," Lawrence said.

Councillors received their copies of the document last week, though it will only be publicly released Wednesday morning. That's when council begins the first of three days of budget deliberations ahead of a final vote later in the year.

Dieppe's budget deliberations continue Nov. 19 with council scheduled to approve it Dec. 10. ​

Riverview's budget will go to council Nov. 21 and 24 with approval also expected on Dec. 10.

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