Estevan city council took a long, hard look at the 2021 civic budget on Monday – a document that features a number of needed projects, but does not, at this time, include a property tax increase.
Council spent hours pouring over the document and quizzing the various department heads about their plans. Each department head discussed their operational needs and, when applicable, their capital needs for this year.
With four new members of council, it was a learning experience, and a chance to get more information about the city’s operations.
“We’re very satisfied with the way the day went. Our new council was very engaged, with lots of questions,” said Mayor Roy Ludwig.
As of right now, the budget does not have an increase for the municipal portion of property taxes. It would be the third straight year in which council has held the line on property taxes.
Ludwig said that with the ongoing struggles from the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a lot of stress in the community, so council doesn’t want to increase taxes.
It’s also a year in which the figures from the 2019 provincial reassessment will be released, which could have an impact on local property values.
“We have tax tools, so we can help mitigate some of the changes between the classes,” said Ludwig.
The budget also does not include an increase to the utility rates or water consumption rates at this time.
The revenues and expenses could still be adjusted as council continues to adjust the document.
Council also had a discussion about third-party grants, in which the city supports a number of cultural agencies and non-profit organizations in the community. There are no plans to axe the third-party grants in this year’s budget.
Ludwig said the new members did very well during the budget discussions, which traditionally is part of the learning curve for new council members.
“They rolled up their sleeves and got full involved,” said Ludwig. “And had great input, actually.”
Returning Councillors Shelly Veroba and Travis Frank were also very vocal during the meeting.
Council will publish the budget on its website so that the public can provide feedback. Ludwig expects the budget will be approved at the February meeting, which is scheduled for Feb. 22.
This week's edition of the Mercury will have more on this story.