Charlottetown unveils big-spending budget, but property tax rate won't rise
The City of Charlottetown is undertaking a number of new initiatives that are pushing expenditures for next year 16 per cent above what the city is forecasting to spend this year.
Finance committee chair John McAleer tabled the 2023-24 budget at a council meeting at noon Friday.
The budget forecasts spending will rise from $66.6 million in the current fiscal year to $77.5 million in 2023-24.
But with some help from the province, increased property tax assessments, and a higher-than-expected operating surplus for 2022-23, the city is still forecasting a balanced budget next year, with a surplus of $30,000.
Last year, the city estimated it would end up with a surplus of just $4,800. However, property tax revenues are now forecast to be $4.6 million higher than budgeted last spring.
Combining those revenues with some savings on expenditures, the surplus for 2022-23 is now being forecast at $6.3 million — and that surplus rolls over to become revenue in the next fiscal year.
Provincial funding also rising
The provincial grant is budgeted to rise from $16 million to $18.5 million in 2023-24, giving the city further room to operate.
The new spending is spread across a variety of departments. New initiatives include:
Salaries and associated costs for two additional police officers.
Five new transit buses and funding for new bus routes.
A new bylaw enforcement officer, whose work will primarily be directed at short-term rental regulation.
Spending associated with the development of the city's new official plan.
In addition to these initiatives, costs are up due to inflation and Charlottetown is still paying for clean-up work after post-tropical storm Fiona, which hit in September 2022.
Charlottetown residents won't see an increase to their property tax rates, but continued high inflation will see assessments going up by the maximum five per cent mandated by the province — and that means tax bills and city tax revenues alike will be higher.
Water and sewer rates are also going up by five per cent. How this affects individual water bills will depend on usage, but it averages out to about $35 per year, the city says.
Working on new grant policy
Meanwhile, some community organizations will have to wait for word on whether Charlottetown will provide new funding they requested during budget consultations, since the city is reviewing its policy on giving them out.
The Confederation Centre of the Arts is looking for $1 million in each of the next five years, a total of $5 million, as the city's contribution toward a major renovation. The Charlottetown Library and Learning Centre wants $1 million toward its capital campaign, Port Charlottetown is asking for $119,000 in property tax relief, and Tremploy is looking for $50,000 toward a new facility for its work employing and training adults with intellectual disabilities.
These are all big asks.
The largest grant the city currently provides is $60,000 to Sport P.E.I. Outside of the grants budget, the city does have agreements to provide $1.1 million a year to Bell Aliant Centre, $1 million to the Civic Centre, and $295,000 to Charlottetown Airport.
The city has set aside $500,000 in total for new grants. It expects to have its new policy in place and final decisions made on the funding requests by the end of May.