Beach budget built on simple fiscal principles: finance chair Carry
Long-time Winnipeg Beach Coun. Daryl Carry is council's finance chairman, as he has been for more than two decades. He and colleague and public works chairwoman Pat Green listen to a person in the gallery May 8.
Daryl Carry, long-time Winnipeg Beach finance chairman, says town council’s current-year fiscal plan is workmanlike, absent pizzazz or major new spending.
Asked for his reflections on the latest town budget presented to a gallery of three May 8, Carry simply said: “There’s not a lot of flash and sizzle.”
The mill rises to 15.284 from a 2018-adjusted rate of 15.058 mills. That represents a 1.5 per cent year-over-year increase. Excluding for the moment parcel-based levies that are not based on assessment, a home assessed at $100,000 would be subject to $687.78 municipal tax, up from $677.61 last year.
The current-year balanced budget foresees revenues of $2.65 million. The tax levy will raise about $1.8 million while other revenues are expected to be $597,112, bumped up by transfers from the accumulated surplus and existing reserves totalling $214,500, bringing total non-tax revenues to $811,611.68.
Making up the $811,611.68 revenues is a one-time federal gas tax bump up to $118,820, double what the town usually receive. As well, there are unconditional grants totally $200,062.66 provincial municipal operating grants and small items such as subdivision fees and other income.
That’s the broad sweep of the town’s 2019 budget which formally passed at a special meeting May 13.
Returning to Carry and his colleagues.
The budget, Carry said, is a balance between “keeping taxes down and not cutting services; continuing to beautify our town and make it affordable. And build up our reserves, which are very healthy for a community its size. We all worked hard at that — and are proud of that. We think we keep trying to make our town a nicer place to live and visit.”
Coun. Pat Green said she was satisfied with council’s fiscal effort. “We spent a lot of time on it.”
Going clockwise around the table, first-term councillors Frank Masi and Larry Banks, both retired businessmen, also remarked on the give-and-take.
“We worked very diligently to make sure we are fiscally responsible,” said Masi.
“It was interesting,” Banks said of the municipal budget process. “It’s just like running a business; looking at all the numbers; looking at how we can reduce, and we did cut here and there. Looking at the cost of labour and everything else that’s going up over two per cent, we were quite pleased at keeping it down to one-and-a-half.”
Mayor Tony Pimentel completed the circle.
“It’s always interesting when you have new councillors,” the mayor said. "You have seasoned councillors then you have the new councillors. The budget process in this town is a lot different from a personal or business budget. We work under constraints [from senior governments]. We have grant restraints of projects going forward.”
Pimentel commended Banks and Masi for “looking into different projects”, thus providing a new perspective for growth and overall community health. Banks and Masi have been working for months to establish a gym in the basement of the community centre. The budget anticipates spending $35,000 on the Banks-Masi initiative. A fee charged for use of the gym has yet to be established.
Beach Mayor Tony Pimentel and chief administrative officer Kathy Magnusson during budget meeting May 8.
The mayor also singled out finance chairman Carry and public works chairwoman Green.
Of Carry he said: “[H]e’s really good at watching the numbers very closely.”
“Pat is always looking at adding [activities], and is very, very involved in having these different community activities and understanding the different dynamics of the [demographics] that we have, both in seniors, middle-aged, teenagers — at how to look at that by working together to provide a community that has activities for all these age groups. It’s not an easy thing.”
“Nowadays,” the mayor continued, “people are changing. They want to do a few more things.”
Pimentel cited a variety of ideas and initiatives taking shape for next winter, including a public skating rink near the bandstand and a push by a nascent residents’ group that began funding late this winter for a cross-country ski trail.
The mayor concluded: “I give a lot of credit to my council for doing the work on this budget and, more important, asking questions. There are no dumb questions. There are questions [from the new councillors, for instance] about why we do certain things.”
Pimentel also tipped his hat to chief administrative officer Kathy Magnusson and finance coordinator Terri Costa for helping council better understand the fiscal reality and the sometimes-minefield of municipal accounting practices.
“We have a dream,” the mayor said. “But they hold us to the numbers. They do our research. They’re the ones that do the work.”
TAX IMPACTS RANGE FROM MINOR TO SIGNIFICANT
While relatively slight from a mill-rate-increase perspective, there will be changes for most property taxpayers, depending on a variety of factors.
The general municipal levy is 15.284 mills, consisting of the at-large levy of 14.364 plus 0.846 mill for the firehall/public works building, 0.025 for an election reserve and 0.49 for the anticipated purchase of a new fire pumper truck.
In addition, property owners in the downtown will pay parcel levies of $232.48 for water treatment plant expansion and $77.57 for upgrade of the town sewage lagoon. Downtown property owners also pay utility bills for water consumption and sewage.
Property owners outside the downtown do not pay for the water treatment plant but will be assessed, again on a per-parcel basis, the $77.57 for the lagoon upgrade.
These property owners will also be assessed $91.13 to pay for operational and maintenance costs related to the lagoon, up from $89.35 last year.
Out of left field; hundreds likely affected by EPTC
One of the bigger changes results from a decision by the provincial government to alter provisions of the Education Property Tax Credit. The credit remains at $700 for taxpayers who declare Winnipeg Beach their principal residence. In past years, any balance left on the EPTC after school taxes were paid was used to reduce municipal taxes. That balance swap is no longer in effect.
The result, curiously and significantly, is that residences that are assessed at a lower value than others will have to pick up the extra bill that would otherwise have been applied to their municipal taxes. The result is that owners of lower assessed properties will pay sometimes significantly more this year than last.
A property assessed at or above $140,774 will be assessed $700 or more for school taxes, thereby using the full $700 EPTC.
In stark contrast, a property with an assessed value of $100,000 will be levied $497.25 school taxes, leaving $202.75 that last year would have been applied to the current-year municipal tax of $687.78. That brings to $890.08 the municipal tax bill will face this year, an increase of 29.5 per cent.
The $140,774 property will use all of the EPTC, and face the across-the-board municipal tax increase due to the 1.50 per cent due to the mill rate increase. (Last year’s adjusted assessment is 15.058 mill. At that rate, school taxes would have been $953.90. This year’s tax levy on this property is $968.22.)
It’s estimated by town officials that there are 50 properties that will be ‘significantly’ affected. We suspect there are significantly more than 50 principal residences with an assessed value below the EPTC no-effect zone of $140,774. It’s fair to say that many will feel, if not the burn, a singe in their taxpaying pocket book.
Whatever the case, town office staff in Dunnottar, Gimli and Winnipeg Beach will likely be fielding questions about why their overall tax bill rose even though the Evergreen School Division levy rose only very slightly, to 11.05 mills from 10.984 mills last year, an increase of 0.6 per cent.
BUDGET HIGHLIGHTS 2019
Reserves at year-end
After transfers, the reserve balance is projected to be $1.4 million at year’s end 2019.
A total $90,000 will be transferred from accumulated surplus to augment building, equipment and drainage reserves.
A total of $24,000 included in the general mill rate to the general road construction reserve.
Debt to fall to $1.4 million at year’s end
Total debt falls to $1.4 million at the end of this year.
The debt due to debentures includes a payment this year for the firehall/public works building totalling $86,405.51. The payment consists of principal in the amount of $43,075.56 and $43,329.95 in interest. This debenture will be retired in 2033.
The full payment is applied at-large and represents a mill rate of 0.846.
Current-year parcel levies for upgrades to the lagoon ($659,068.55) and the water treatment plant ($185,377.08) will reduce the debt on these infrastructure pieces to $751,154.11 at year’s end. Debt for these two items will be retired in 2026.
Also on the fiscal front, the town’s accumulated surplus sat at $7.14 million, according to the audited statement at year-end 2017.
Capital budget ambitious
The budget projects spending a total $225,000 on capital projects this year, $123,000 will be borne by reserves.
The biggest-ticket allocation is the $150,000 for a building at the town’s sewage lagoon. The building will serve as an office for utilities manager Raven Sharma Shariot and provide space for the additional equipment required to address shortcomings at the upgraded lagoon. Half of the capital for this project will be borne by the general fund, the remaining half coming from the lagoon reserve.
Also on the lagoon front, $6,000 has been allocated for a sludge survey there. Once again, the lagoon reserve will be tapped.
Councillors Frank Masi, left, and Larry Banks have spearheaded a drive to establish a gym in the basement of the community centre.
A new gym for community centre and a walking path for along Prospect St. also figure into the capital spending program.
The gym in the basement of the Winnipeg Beach Community Centre is projected to cost $35,000, half of which will be borne by the town’s infrastructure reserve. The balance will come from the general operating fund although the full amount of $17,500 may be reduced should the town be successful in obtaining grants from the Westshore Community Foundation and the province’s Sustainable Communities Grant Program.
A $19,000 walking path along Prospect St. from Spruce Ave. to the Boundary Creek Marina. Again grant assistance is being sought. Along the path there will be a seating area, dog waste station and refuse/recycling receptacles at the corner of Prospect and Park Ave, near the commemorative cairn that marks the northern edge of what was called the postage stamp province when Manitoba joined Confederation in 1870.
The capital budget also allocates $15,000 for a riding mower, the cost funded by the town’s equipment reserve.
Although not in the capital plan, the town also expects to complete the tourist information centre at the caboose downtown this year.
Increased spending points to wage materials increases
Wages across all departments have increased two to four cent.
Council doubles-down on road work
The projected spending on road work this year is $155,700; more than twice the $70,300 spent last year.
Council is eying work patchwork on Ash Ave. and Prospect St., the town’s only reconstructed roads of recent vintage. Eaton St. is also on the project list this year, though the extent of work there is unclear.
As well, there will be the usual course of gravelling and grading of roads as necessary. The comparatively minor frost boils that showed up on some roads will be graded out once things settle.