Moncton approves $189M budget with tax-rate cut, eyes massive new park

Moncton council approved the city's 2023 operating budget Thursday with a cut in the tax rate of 10.3 cents for residential properties. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Moncton council approved the city's 2023 operating budget Thursday with a cut in the tax rate of 10.3 cents for residential properties. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

Moncton council approved a 2023 budget Thursday with a tax-rate cut and voted to explore creation of a large new park in the city's northwest.

Councillors voted unanimously to approve the $189 million operations budget, $63 million capital budget and $41 million utility budget.

Spending is up from this year, but it will be the second budget in a row that includes a cut in the tax rate. The residential rate is down 10.3 cents to $1.4443 per $100 of assessed value.

Commercial properties, including apartment buildings, will also see a decrease because the province cut its portion of the tax rate.

"We know that we've had incredible growth in our community right now and assessments have really risen," Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold told reporters.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

"It was very important to us that our residential taxpayers did not receive a huge, huge tax bill. So we did everything we could to mitigate those high assessment costs."

Water and sewer rates remain unchanged.

Residents of the portion of the Moncton local service district that will become part of the city in January will see their tax rate increase five cents to $0.9158 per $100 of assessment.

The vote Thursday concluded three days of meetings where councillors and city staff combed through the 544-page budget.

The budget includes money to add five more Codiac Regional RCMP officers next year. Riverview has also voted in favour of the addition. Dieppe has yet to vote, but that city's mayor has voiced support for the measure.

Thursday morning saw Moncton council debate creation of a park in an area known as the Vision Lands.

It's a large swath of mostly undeveloped land between Wheeler Boulevard and the Trans-Canada Highway the city has long wanted to see developed.

Coun. Daniel Bourgeois had proposed the city add $25 million over five years to its capital budget to buy up privately owned land in the Vision Lands for a park.

City of Moncton
City of Moncton

While some areas around Halls Creek and its north branch are already protected from development, Bourgeois said he wanted the city to stash money away for a much larger park.

"This is not 10 acres," Bourgeois said of his proposal. "This is something huge that … we could be the talk of the town, whether it's through Canada or North America — or even throughout the world — that we have created this nature park."

He said he wants some of the Vision Lands to remain open to development, saying apartments and condos could surround a park on three sides.

"The value of these properties overlooking that kind of a park would be a significant economic benefit to the city," Bourgeois said.

Various councillors said they'd support Bourgeois' motion in principle, but questioned the wisdom of saying how much the city is willing to spend to buy land as it also works with the landowners on a new development plan for the area.

Arnold floated the idea of the federal government's national urban parks program. The 2021 federal budget included money for establishing six new parks by 2026.

"What the federal government is trying to do just fits like a glove with what I see," Bourgeois said. "It's not just adding, you know, 20 feet of space left and right of a brook. It's creating a a huge park. I think that's what the national urban park framework or program is supposed to do."

He altered his motion to instead have the city explore the program. Councillors voted unanimously in favour.

City staff say they will look into the idea and bring information back to council at a future meeting.

City of Moncton
City of Moncton

Bill Budd, the city's director of planning and development, said his department would likely need more funding in 2023 to study the idea.

And, Budd said, they needed to talk to the private landowners who hadn't weighed in ahead of Thursday's vote.

Arnold said the vote, which doesn't guarantee a park of the scale Bourgeois imagined, shows the city is serious.

"I think it puts more of an emphasis on ensuring that we do everything we can to to protect this land," Arnold said.