They were looking to keep any need for a tax increase under the 4% mark and as Moose Jaw City Council received their budget overview Monday night, that's what they got. City administration has explained that there is a need to increase the mill rate by 3.82% as the budget process gets underway at City Hall.
Finance Director Brian Acker outlined the budget for council and said that to keep programs and services at the level they were for 2018, it will cost $48.4 million for 2019 but there is only $47.3 million in revenues expected. He explained that the local economy is in a bit of a slump with little to no assessment growth.
Salaries are also a major concern since they make up 58% of their expenditures across all city departments. Whenever salaries go up by 1%, there is a correlating need for an approximate 1% tax increase to cover it, increasing pressures on the budget.
The budget process will also be a bit different this year as councillors have agreed to use a priority based system when preparing the finances.
"Expenditure prioritization, or priority budgeting, is a method of rationalizing expenditures," explained Acker. "This is moving from a 'what is needed' approach to a 'what can be accomplished with available funding' approach and in essence, it's to spend within a municipalities means of finance."
Projects and programs have been given a grade by city administration in order to show how they rank in the grand scheme of things. If council wants to make some cuts, they can quickly see how one project stacks up against another.
"Prioritizing the programs and services is based upon things like the immediate needs of a program, how essential that program is, whether it's safety related, the impact to citizens, alignment with goals and the strategic plan, is there a payback involved with it and enhancing social and cultural needs."
Councillors will now review their budget packages as they prepare for deliberations on the different programs and services. Talks will continue on Wednesday as third-party groups present their budgets and funding requests.