A semi-surprise e-mail arrived today announcing that the 2013 municipal budget will be launched tomorrow with a special technical briefing and media conference. And I say “semi-surprise” because I’d heard it was coming sometime in January but I was hoping that meant late January. But here it is. Great! The budget! Some hundreds of pages of numbers and Infinite Horizons swishes!
Guess I know what I’ll be writing about for the next issue. Anyone want to place bets on what the mill rate increase is going to be? Personally, I reckon it won’t be less than three and a half per cent but it will be under five. Here’s why.
Saskatoon blazed a trail last month with a property tax boost of 4.99 per cent. So we can set ours anywhere under that and look pretty good.
But working against a low or zero per cent increase is the Municipal Price Index — that’s the inflation rate for stuff the city has to buy. The city only started tracking that closely last year. And Saskatoon found their MPI to be 3.25 per cent. Ours will probably be pretty much the same so it’d be foolish to boost city revenues by less than this because then we’d see a deterioration of services. And I don’t want that. A water main broke out in front of our place last month and now we don’t have a sidewalk.
I want my sidewalk back. So if you hear tomorrow that you’re going to be paying a little more this year in property taxes, remember, you’re doing it for me.
I’d do the same for you if you were sidewalk-less.
Of more concern to me — even more than if the city will be able to fix my sidewalk in under 18 months — is what will the city be using as the Mill Rate Comparator this year. That’s the insignificant purchase that costs about the same as property taxes will be increasing by.
It’s usually expressed in cups of coffee. Such as, council will say something like, “For the average Regina household, property taxes will only be going up the cost of a cup of coffee a month.”
It’s a pretty useful comparator because it’s so vague. A cup of coffee can mean a lot of different things nowadays. If you’re going to be paying a buck or two more, then it’s implied they’re comparing the mill rate boost to a cup of Tim Horton’s brew. If it’s more in the five dollar range, then it’s a fancy, Starbucks espresso-based concoction.
Take the stadium, for instance. When it was revealed that council would probably have to raise the mill rate by a fraction of a per cent to pay for it, the line from council was that that worked out to about the cost of a cup of coffee per year. Now, it’d probably be more accurate to say, “Give up one grande mochachino and biscotti a year and get a stadium,” but still, it does succeed in making the tax hike sound pretty insignificant.
And putting tax increases into terms people can understand makes a lot of sense. I’d just like to see the units change up now and then. It doesn’t always have to be a cup of coffee. There are so many frivolous purchases that we make all the time without thinking that could be used instead. You know, so that I don’t get bored. Here are some suggestions….
• pair of tube socks
• pint of beer at Slow Pub
• cupcake at Fresh and Sweet
• sandwich at Italian Star Deli (actually, that might not work because I wouldn’t forgo one of those even if it’d get me a fancy moving sidewalk)
• Saskatchewan Roughriders jersey napkins (set of eight)
• cloth Safeway bag
• shitty end table on UsedRegina.com
• issue of Canadian House & Home magazine
• intro-level pledge in the Tiny Kitten Teeth Deluxe Hardcover Kickstarter
• Bowie album pre-order on iTunes
• month of Netflix subscription
• chintzy Christmas gift you give your mailman
• square inches of sidewalk in front of Paul Dechene’s house
As for what else is going on this week at city hall, there isn’t much. The Accessibility, Environment and Municipal Heritage Advisory committees all met this week but mostly just set their work schedules and meeting times for the year. Municipal Heritage did look at a report recommending that the city restore and set up the Davin Fountain somewhere. So that’s nice.
Finance And Administration Committee also met. But all they covered was a report recommending the city give the RCMP Heritage Centre a $100,000 community investment grant to help offset their projected $300,000 to $400,000 deficit. I have yet to visit the RCMP Heritage Centre but it’s the kind of thing I suppose community investment grants should be going towards.
Still, I find it odd that Creative City Centre was denied $30,000 in operational funding last year because their business plan was deemed “incomplete” by the Arts Advisory Committee. Meanwhile, the RCMP Heritage Centre already is the beneficiary of a $904,000 annual tax exemption and still can’t make ends meet. And that’s considered a good bet for an additional $100,000 in support.
Anyway, that’s it for this week. You can read all the reports on the city’s website. And look out for more budget coverage tomorrow. You’ll get to find out how many cups of coffee you’ll be giving up this year.
And you know, it really should be lots because coffee is bad for you.