Gimli Mayor Greenberg a ‘no-tax-increase kinda guy’ but…
Gimli Mayor Lynn Greenberg bit the bullet on a tax increase, if reluctantly. Coun. Thora Palson likes what the budget achieves.
Lynn Greenberg says he’s not a big fan of tax increases. But it’s a position, the Gimli mayor readily acknowledges, that draws criticism from some quarters.
The current-year budget includes an increase in the general mill rate, an aggressive capital spending plan, among other elements.
After a budget presentation by assistant chief administrative officer Kelly Cosgrove April 23, we asked the mayor whether the fiscal plan meets the core criterion of finding a balance between limiting tax increases and responsibly managing growing municipal expenditures.
“It may have struck the balance,” Greenberg said. “But I’ve always been a no-tax-increase kind guy. I have been criticized for that over the years. Some people say you’ve got to raise it a little bit over time; not raising you get in trouble. And I don’t know. I would like to have had no increase but like [finance chairman] Richard [Petrowski] said [moments before] everybody worked on it.”
“There was a lot cut and pared down,” the mayor continued. “There was a lot of time spent to get it to where it is. We’ll just have to leave it at that.”
He immediately added: “It’s actually… I’d call it an aggressive budget; there’s a lot of capital stuff put in there that we want to get done. We hope that people will see the results of this budget — the actual things getting done.”
For his part, finance chair Petrowski said his first budget in that capacity was quite the learning experience. He credited Cosgrove, Suzie Eyolfson, CAO Joann Murphy and the rest of the administrative staff, the public works foreman and the rec department manager and the rest of council.
“It was really a group effort to put it together. Everybody had their wants and asks … and we all worked it out and came up with this [budget],” Petrowski said.
Public Works chairwoman Thora Palson and recreation and culture chairman Peter Holfeuer also praised the fiscal effort. (Coun. Cody Magnusson is currently on a leave of absence.)
“This budget,” said Palson, “has a significant amount allocated to infrastructure. It's a progressive and ambitious budget — and I look forward to working with our staff and our departments to see our tax dollars spent responsibly and accountably.”
Holfeuer, who holds the public safety and recreation portfolio, said delving deep into the budget gave him a better understanding of the fiscal need in the municipality and the complexity of meeting the needs of each department.
“It’s one thing to have a budget but let’s get things done,” Holfeuer said. “I think this budget addresses that. I’m quite pleased with the way the budget turned out. Of course, my focus is going to be on parks and recreation.”
Gimli’s current-year balanced budget anticipates revenues of $12.5 million, up from the $11.6 million projected last year. However the total revenue last year was actually $12.4 million, an increase due to a spike in other revenue from an anticipated $3.3 million to an actual of $4.14 million.
Most of the net operating surplus last year of $722,620 is attributable to the revenue spike in 2018.
Total basic expenditures rise to $12.4 million, up from the $11.5 million forecast for 2018. Actual expenditures last year were $11.7 million.
There is an increase in spending this year that is, in part, due to staff wage increases of 2.5 per cent.
Buffering expenditures and bolstering reserves are revenue bump-ups due to a one-time $649,035 funding win from the federal gas tax refund, almost twice the amount received in 2018; a slight increase due to additional assessment of about $10.6 million; and a relatively small increase in the general municipal mill rate.
Hallmarks of 2019 budget; top two
An aggressive current-year capital spending plan.
Continued allocation to reserves.
WHAT ARE THE TAX IMPACTS?
The general municipal mill rate rises to 13.279, up from 12.571 in 2019, an increase of 0.708 mill. However when total urban and rural debt are included the net urban rate is up just 0.657 mill, up to15.952 mills from 15.295 in 2018, while the total rural levy rises 0.668, to 15.224 from 14.556.
A home valued at $200,000 in the urban area will be levied $1,435.68, up $59.13 from the $1,376.55 last year.
The levy increase for a home valued at $200,000 in the rural area will be levied $1,370.16, up $60.12 from the $1,310.04 last year. (See table.)
While the net levy increase is relatively small, there are other payments that affect taxpayers in areas where Local Improvement Districts are paid based on annual parcel levies on properties within the LID. The mill rate does not capture these payments.
‘AMBITIOUS’ CAPITAL PLAN TOPS $3.5 M
The current-year capital plan is expected to top $3.5 million. The focus is getting work done, some of it already held over from a year and more.
The biggest capital outlay is the $844,088 allocated for two roads in the Pelican Beach subdivision, Mercury Dr. and Aurora Way. The work on Mercury Dr. is projected to cost $397,653, of which $138,500 will be borne by the general fund, the balance coming from reserves. The work on Aurora Way is pegged at $446,435, all of which will be borne by reserves.
Other allocations include the $690,477 Goldfield drainage project, which has been on the books for two years; water meter replacement, pegged at $250,000; sidewalk renewal projected at $200,000; the first of a two-year $150,000 annual contribution to the next phase of Viking Park, which will include an outward expansion from the Viking statue into the harbour hill and Gimli waterfront; and a new landfill cell at Arnes, projected to cost $150,000.
There’s also an open-ended allocation of $400,000 for ‘property acquisition’. This does not include any specific purchase plan, and is more a placeholder, it appears.
Council is also eying a $40,000 charging station for electric vehicles. There’s also provision for $45,000 for a weather station at Gimli Airport.
ACCUMULATED SURPLUS AND DEBT
Surpluses accumulate over time. Last year, Gimli posted a surplus of revenue over expenditure totalling $722,620. The final amount depends on an audit which will take into account amortization, depreciation and anything that may have been overlooked at year end, noted assistant chief administrative officer Cosgrove.
However, “I’m quite positive we captured everything,” Cosgrove said, referring to what may have been overlooked.
The final amount goes to the accumulated surplus, which currently stands at about $5 million.
Three projects will be funded this year out of the accumulated surplus, Cosgrove said.
A healthy accumulated surplus becomes a factor in municipal borrowing, chief administrative officer Murphy noted. It’s sort of the municipality’s ‘rainy day fund’, added Cosgrove.
Total debenture debt stands at just over $6 million, including $205,000 due to debt charges borne separately by urban and rural ratepayers, and about $5.8 million attributable to the municipality at-large.
Information available at gimli.ca
Both the budget presentation and the financial plan can be viewed on or downloaded from the municipal website.
Modest mill rate increases are made possible by a well larded fiscal bottom line.
Gimli needs a boost in industrial activity to help as a counter to the high reliance on residential taxation.