Moncton staff are proposing city council approve a $188-million operating budget next year that includes a 6.6 per cent residential tax rate cut.
Councillors were given an overview of the budget Monday before detailed discussions start at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Those deliberations will include a closely watched decision on increasing Codiac Regional RCMP spending. Monday's council meeting was bookended by calls to defund the police and add officers for downtown patrols.
Jacques Doucet, Moncton's chief financial officer, said staff tried to balance rising municipal costs while reducing the impact on residents.
"I have never seen inflationary pressures like this," Doucet told councillors Monday. "So it was a real change from prior years where we were always dealing with two or three per cent normal inflation."
For the second year in a row, the city has proposed a tax rate cut to counter soaring assessment values set by the province.
The budget would cut the residential rate by 10.3 cents to $1.4443 per $100 of assessed value. A home valued at $330,000 would pay $4,766 in property taxes at that rate.
The non-residential tax rate is proposed at $2.3208 per $100 of assessed value.
A tax rate increase is proposed for unincorporated areas the province is amalgamating with the city on Jan. 1 as part of local governance reforms. The residential rate would increase five cents to $0.5043 per $100 of assessed value.
Water and sewer rates are proposed to remain the same.
Overall, the budget would see spending rise to $188.3 million from $176.2 million budgeted this year.
The outline given Monday indicates Moncton's portion of the Codiac Regional Policing Authority budget could rise $4.3 million, or 15 per cent, over last year. The policing authority oversees the Codiac RCMP, which polices Moncton, Dieppe and Riverview.
The board has recommended adding 25 officers and 14 civilian support staff. After initially requesting all the hiring take place next year, the board has revised its recommendation to spread it over three years.
Even if no additional staff are approved, the board has said it still needs an increase of $3.8 million for things like equipment replacement and inflation.
Several members of the public spoke against adding more officers.
Hafsah Mohammad called for freezing spending on police and municipal bylaw enforcement officers so community members can discuss alternatives.
Leslie Chandler also spoke against adding more officers, saying the reintroduction of RCMP officers in schools "is probably the first insidious, insidious, incremental step toward martial law in society."
Later in the meeting, Patrick Richard of business association Downtown Moncton Centre-Ville Inc. said merchants want more people patrolling downtown to address crime and other social issues.
"Whether it's RCMP, whether it's bylaw, support workers, social workers, whatever," Richard said. "But they need to see change tomorrow. It's pretty dire right now."
A series of meetings held in the city's west end this year saw residents call on the city to take more action on crime, homelessness and drug use. That led to the city boosting spending by $1 million on bylaw enforcement.
The policing authority says it recommended the increase based on separate consultations with about 80 groups and individuals.
The report leaked to CBC in September shows those groups include the chamber of commerce, United Way, Ability NB, the YMCA of Greater Moncton board, downtown businesses, municipal councils, and several post-secondary education institutions in the area.
Policing authority chair Don Moore previously said none of those consulted had called for defunding police.
Several of the speakers Monday were critical of the policing authority for not publicly releasing the report or consulting them.
"Whose opinions mattered about this?" Robert MacKay said.
Council given options
After the council meeting, Doucet said in an interview that staff will present council with several options related to the request for more officers.
One would fund the request for more officers, another would see the money put in reserve, pending the results of a policing study, and another would see no increased spending.
Monday's presentation showed a proposed capital budget of $63.1 million. The capital budget pays for things such as road, buildings, and vehicles.
Details of specific projects are expected to be revealed Tuesday, though Doucet indicated staff have included money for a new Moncton Market. A new market building has been part of the city's downtown plans for several years.
Staff reiterated the budget includes $1 million to begin implementing the city's new active transit plan, though no further details were available Monday.
Earlier in the meeting, cyclist Mike Roy spoke on behalf of a new group called Active Transportation Coalition of Moncton. Roy said the city needs to move faster to keep people safe, pointing to the recent death of a man cycling on Connaught Avenue.
"We need to do better and move forward with more of a sense of urgency," Roy said.
The numbers in the proposed operating and capital budgets may change as council debates them this week. Final approval is scheduled for Thursday morning.