Moose Jaw City Council got an early look at some of the challenges and opportunities the city will be facing in the 2024 preliminary budget. 

City administration is estimating that there will be a shortfall of $120,000 in the operating budget, not including the Moose Jaw Police Service, in 2024. This would equate to a 0.34 per cent increase in taxes. 

“(The police service) have historically been in the one per cent range or thereabouts in terms of their request. So that would be, if you put the two of them together, we are probably looking at a starting point for our 2024 operating budget of about a 1.5 per cent mill rate increase,” explained director of financial services Brian Acker. 

Acker said it would leave room for new initiatives that could put the mill rate increase in the two to three per cent range. 

The Moose Jaw Police Service's budget usually makes up 25 per cent of the city's overall expenditures. While the police do not have to share their funding requirements until later in the fall, the city is anticipating the police will require an increase in funding. 

The external and local economic factors look positive, according to Acker. However, the biggest challenge is inflation. 

Inflation is expected to be in the three per cent range in 2024. City administration is estimating it will add $613,000 in expenditures to next year's budget. 

Acker said the city has seen a significant increase in the cost of repairs, maintenance, and operating costs for its aging fleet of equipment. It was also noted that the aging equipment will need to be replaced in the next several years. Acker said the city is looking at increased costs of $800,000 in 2024 for equipment repairs. 

The city's overall expenditures are expected to be up $1.9 million. 

Early taxation estimates from the city are showing growth of about one per cent with each one per cent being equal to about $349,000 in municipal taxation in 2024. It is expected the city will receive about $982,000 from the Municipal Revenue Sharing Grant from the provincial government. 

The city is also expecting $100,000 in bank interest, an increase of about $228,000 for the 15 Wing fire suppression contract if that comes to fruition as well as an increase in miscellaneous revenues of $130,000. Total revenues for 2024 are expected to be up by $1.8 million. 

The general capital budget will be facing pressures in the general capital reserve to fund the rehabilitation of the Fourth Avenue Bridge (Thunderbird Viaduct) and a new outdoor pool. 

Utility rates could face increased pressure over the next five years to fund the Buffalo Pound Water Treatment Plant Corporation's plant renewal project and the Crescent View Lift Station replacement project. 

The solid waste utility is in the process of moving forward with establishing a new landfill that will require significant funds. 

“I do think we are going to have some really hard decisions to make around our capital projects. It’s so disappointing to think there might be things that we have to cut or reduce that we worked so hard to get into the budget for so long,” said Coun. Heather Eby. 

The city is expecting to receive $2.1 million from the provincial Gas Tax that is being directed to waterworks and wastewater utilities. The city has been unsuccessful in receiving any other large grants for capital projects. 

As for a timeline, an online survey is expected to be released in September or October with the results being reported back to city council. In early November, the preliminary operating and capital budgets will be reviewed at a city council planning session. 

City administration will then present its preliminary budget in November. Budget deliberations begin in December and the budget is expected to be approved before the New Year. 

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