City budget 2019: Brandon council settles on 1.17% tax hike

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Brandon, MB – After a full day of deliberation and debate, Brandon City Council approved an $83.2 million dollar operating budget representative of a municipal tax increase of 1.17% in 2019. For the typical residential property used in the City’s standard calculations (Approximately 40 years old, 1,200 square feet, 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, and assessed at approximately $255,000), this represents an increase in municipal taxes of $21 over 2018 levels.

In stating his approval of the budget, Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest called it a very good result under the circumstances, and noted that Council has approved a municipal tax increase which is under half the current rate of inflation.

“At a nearly 4% proposed increase going in, this was one of the toughest budget starting points I’ve seen, for both Council and Administration,” Chrest noted. “I want to compliment all City staff in preparing the budget document on our behalf and also commend City Council for all their thoughtful questions and comments. It’s a very good result, under the circumstances. With a lot of expenses out there being increased on homeowners, we’re at least doing our part to keep our expenses reined in.”

Of the 40-plus amendments proposed to the budget by Council at the outset of deliberations, those of significance which received approved include:

  • A $50,000 increase in the budgeted funding to the Brandon Downtown Development Corporation;
  • An additional $500,000 in funding for the Keystone Centre, to be funded from the Accommodation Tax Reserve;
  • Approval of $30,000 in funding for 2019 operation of the Brandon General Museum and Archives Inc.;
  • Funding of $10,000 to the Age-Friendly Committee and $10,000 to the Brandon Poverty Committee to allow the pair of arms-length Committees of Council to continue their respective work in the community;
  • An additional $100,000 in funding for the City’s various community centres;
  • A reduction of $110,000 from the Brandon Transit operations budget, with direction to administration to eliminate the underperforming Routes 16 & 19 and have impacted areas serviced by its TransCab contract;
  • A reduction of $100,000 to be found within the Brandon Police Service’s budget, preferably from the Police Vehicle Reserve and the Police Equipment Reserve;
  • An addition of $3,600 to re-establish the Brandon Police Service’s Youth Cadet Program for the upcoming year;
  • An addition of $50,000 for new sidewalk and curb projects, as well as an additional $25,000 for existing sidewalk maintenance;
  • The addition of $40,000 to allow for the continuation of the Downtown Ambassador Pilot Program and the absorption of the current KC Skate Plaza Ambassador Program;
  • The addition of $25,000 to allow a second year of initiatives within the Mayor’s “NEO: Not Even Once” Youth Addictions Prevention Program;
  • The removal of funding within the Community Services Section for the 100th Meridian Concerts Program, with $10,000 in additional funding to be shifted over to the established Music in The Parks Program.
  • A reduction within the Community Development Section’s salary budget to reflect a current manager vacancy;
  • A transfer of $200,000 from the Ambulance Reserve into the Fire and Ambulance operating budget, and a transfer of $200,000 from the Recreation Centre Reserve into the Recreation Centre operating budget;
  • Reductions in the value of appropriations to various reserve funds (Affordable Housing, Machinery and Equipment Reserve, Civic Services Complex Reserve, Sanitation Site Reserve) totalling $775,000; as well as an increase of $100,000 in the value of appropriation to the Parks Reserve;
  • A $50,000 reduction in professional development costs spread across the corporation.

Council also agreed to refer one of the day’s most-discussed amendment proposals – a mandate to hold all out-of-scope (non-union) salaries to a 0.5% increase in 2019 – for follow-up discussion and further consideration in the next several weeks.

“This is exactly how I want to see the budget process work,” added Brandon’s City Manager/CAO Rod Sage. “We as Senior Administration bring forward proposals based on the service levels which Council has entrusted us to provide, and then Council, as elected officials and on behalf of citizens, debates that level of service. Council steers the boat and Administration then rows the boat, so for me, it’s all about a partnership, allowing for collaboration.”

The Council-approved budget will now proceed to public hearing stage, a date for which will be determined in the spring.