2019 budget will need final approval on Nov. 26
Spruce Grove council is preparing to approve a property tax increase in a couple of weeks.
Budget deliberations wrapped up on Thursday night, with council agreeing on a plan to approve a 3.5% tax increase for 2019.
The move comes after city staff had proposed the increase to be 3.9% in each of the next three years.
Mayor Stuart Houston says he's happy with where the increase sits, given the number of projects the city is taking on.
For the city to reduce taxation by 0.4%, it meant that funding had to be removed from Family and Community Support Services, who had wanted to add another full-time employee next year.
The city will also make a reduction in a grant to the Allied Arts Council, and remove funding from a handful of other corporate initiatives.
Combined with updated water, sewer, and natural gas rates, the 3.5% increase will amount to about $15 per month for the city's average home.
That's about $1 less than what the cost would have been under the old rate of 3.9%
Despite coming to an unofficial consensus on the new rate, the biggest potential increase is looming a couple years down the road.
The city's policy is to carry a 20% surplus from year to year, instead of dividing money into specific reserve accounts.
Based on next year's proposed increase, maintaining that surplus would require a 3.9% increase in 2020, and an 8.6% leap in 2021.
Houston says council will have some tough calls to make in coming years.
He says despite the fact most councillors would have preferred a smaller increase, the major improvements to emergency services can't be ignored.
Plenty of discussion was also dedicated to transit over the week, as the city is moving that service in-house amid skyrocketing ridership numbers.
Bus use increased 20% in September, and 34% in October, compared to those months last year.
Over the next few years, the city will buy five new buses to operate, and while most of the cost will be covered through grants, those vehicles will still cost the city almost $2 million.
Close to a million dollars will also add buses and frequency to the 560 and 562 routes, with more funding approved to add the UPass fare system to transit buses.
Tax increases in Spruce Grove have averaged out to roughly 3.6% over the last decade.