Money

Big projects driving rise in taxes

Lauren MacGill

This chart shows how taxes are distributed among city services.

This chart shows how taxes are distributed among city services.

WINKLER - 

Residential and commercial taxes are going up despite a drop in mill rate for 2018.

The city announced the budget for 2018 on March 13. The total budget for next year is just under $16.3 million, a figure that has doubled in the past twelve years. “When I first took over as mayor we had an $8 million budget,” mayor Martin Harder said. “The city has grown and the tax rate has been very stable.”

“I think it’s striking a very good balance,” Harder added. “If we look back over the last 10 years, the budget increases have been roughly 1.5 per cent per year. Last year was basically zero increase. To come back in for a residential [increase] at 2.5 per cent and commercial at 1.5 per cent I think is very reasonable in particular looking at the number of projects that are in there.”

The mill rate dropped to 13.729, following a downward trend over the past few years. Because 2018 is a reassessment year, taxes will be going up.

A home valued at $300,000 last year will see a 2.5 per cent increase on their taxes, which will equate to about $49 more. A commercial property assessed at $500,000 last year will see a rise of about $69 (1.5 per cent).

Harder said Winkler is in a good position as far as growth. “It’s something that a lot of communities cannot grasp, that we can do as many things as we are doing,” he said. “The other thing is gratitude to our community. When you look at the number of donations the City of Winkler receives outside of the tax base, the number of projects we’ve been able to complete because of contributions from the community, we’re very grateful and proud.”

Those donations total just over $419,000.

The debt will be jumping from $4.26 million to $9.52 million, pushed primarily by the waste water treatment facility and the exhibition centre, two large projects the city hopes to begin this year.

However, Harder noted the January debt level of $4.26 million was the lowest level of debt the city has seen in about 20 years. “We have a reserve fund that’s well over $10 million,” he said. “The debt servicing that’s going to be required is being brought in because of the waste water [facility] and the desire for the exhibition centre. We’re trying to make that work.”

The waste water treatment facility is adding $4.1 million to the debt.

Harder said a lot still depends on whether the city receives federal and provincial funding for the waste water treatment facility. Nothing had been announced as of March 13.

“It was interesting in the Manitoba budget, infrastructure actually lost $100 million in funding,” he added. “When you look at the water services board they were also cut in funding. I’m not sure how much to expect from there.”

Another $2 million is going toward the recreation complex. “We have refined and looked at this project for what we can do to make some of it happen,” Harder said. “There may be some items inside that aren’t finished but we want to put the footprint there. We need to start somewhere.”

The project previously came with a $40 million price tag, but has been scaled back to what the city can afford, which includes a second arena and exhibition centre. “The desire is there from citizens,” Harder said. “We know that in order to make proper use of that facility we need the exhibition centre together with the arena. In order to fully utilize the facility, we need facilities that are going to be available to host bigger events.”

$1.7 million is budgeted toward infrastructure in Clover Creek. $1.2 million is going toward Highway 32 and $800,000 toward Northlands Parkway.