City of Yellowknife budget 2018 tax hike a 'minimal tax increase,' says mayor

The City of Yellowknife has passed its budget for 2018, and the proposed hefty tax hike of 5.64 per cent is no more.

The average resident will see an 1.86% hike, compared to the proposed 5.64%

Councillors passed the budget Monday, voting 7 to 1, for spending $76.5 million in 2018. (Priscilla Hwang/CBC)

Yellowknife City Council passed its budget for 2018, and the proposed hefty tax hike of 5.64 per cent is no more — the average property owner will now see a tax increase of about 1.86 per cent starting in the new year.

"We had to make some tough decisions, but came out at the end with just a minimal tax increase," said Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck.

"Costs go up for us like they do for any household in the community, and we have to be able to make those revenue requirements."

In last year's budget, the tax increase was 1.23 per cent. The largest increase in the past 15 years was in 2010, with a tax hike of 5.7 per cent.

    At a council meeting on Dec. 11, the budget passed with seven votes for, and one vote against from Coun. Niels Konge.

    Konge expressed concerns about increasing costs, amid a low population growth in the city.

    Yellowknife City Coun. Niels Konge at Monday's council meeting. (Walter Strong/CBC)

    "For me, it's important that we really try to do better," said Konge.

    "I think if we keep on the path we're on, we're gonna see our increase in population drop off even more, and the burden is on less and less people." 

    The total 2018 expenses for the City are projected at about $76.5 million, with the largest expense being wages and benefits at $26.9 million. That's followed by capital investments — for long-term, big projects like infrastructure improvements — then operations and maintenance costs.

    The City expects revenue of about $77.9 million, largely coming from property taxes, user fees and funding from the territorial and federal governments.

    The 1.86 per cent tax hike translates to approximately $33 more in property tax per year for a property valued at $300,000, according to City officials. 

    A property valued at $750,000 could see an estimated increase of about $82 in property taxes.

    Smaller tax hike thanks to cost cuts, GNWT funding

    Council voted to reduce: planning costs by $50,000; costs for council travel by $20,000; council's membership and subscription fees to political groups by $23,000.

    It's also removing the anti-poverty initiative, which would have cost $75,000.

    The makeover of the Tommy Forrest ball park includes upgrades to the field and surrounding infrastructure, including a community park and walkways. (Submitted by Yellowknife Fastball Association)

    The City also got $265,000 in funding from the Government of the Northwest Territories for the street outreach program, which helped decrease the tax rate, according to budget documents.

    The budget includes money for consultations on a new aquatic centre, a proposed bike park, a makeover for the Tommy Forrest Ball Park, and for the development of a playground at the Lakeview Heights residential area.

    The City also chose to keep $500,000 in its general fund account, rather than moving it to its capital investments fund, to significantly lower the tax rate by nearly two percentage points.

    More road paving, no Frame Lake expansion

    The City plans to spend about $24.3 million on bigger projects around the city.

    Some of which include annual paving around the city, renewing old water and sewer infrastructure, and upgrading the intersection at 44th Street and Franklin Avenue. The City will also hire four new firefighters in 2018.

    The City decided to save money by pushing the Frame Lake expansion project to 2019, as well as the project to relocate some equipment from the old Stanton Territorial Hospital to the new one. It will also no longer fund improvements for the School Draw parking lot.

    For more details on the City's 2018 budget and documents, go here.

    With files from Walter Strong


    To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

    By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.