Town administration says uncontrollable cost increases are a major factor in the 7.55 per cent tax increase proposed in the town's 2023 draft budget, which amounts to an increase of $188.04 for the average residential property.

Its total impact on the average residential property, including utilities, is $197.36.

Last night, town council gave first reading to the budget and set dates public consultation and the budget debate. They received a hard copy of the budget to examine at the end of the council meeting, and no discussion took place.

The proposed operating budget reflects the cost of maintaining services, which have been heavily impacted by high inflation and growth, while continuing to pursue strategic goals laid out in the 2022-25 budget.

Town administration says uncontrollable cost increases of more than $2 million include insurance, fuel, heat and power utility, RCMP contract, software licensing, telecommunications, legal fees, bank and credit card charges, operating costs for the newly-opened Station, support for partner organizations, and compensation cost of living (COLA) increases.

The budget includes a 3.5 per cent COLA increase for non-unionized staff. IAFF negotiations are nearing conclusion, and the Teamster Union opens for bargaining on Nov. 1. 

According to the town, Calgary's cost of living index had a year-over-year increase in August of 6.7 per cent. 

To help offset its impact, the budget proposes to draw $500,000 from the town's tax stabilization reserve. It also intended to increase some user fees and draw $2.3 million from other operating reserves.

It proposes to keep the water and wastewater fees at 2022 rates but the storm sewer fee will increase $9.36 for the year,

Last year's budget included $2,998,565 in capital reserve transfers, equivalent to 9.12 per cent of property taxes. This year it is projected to climb to $3,878,890, which is 10.65 per cent of property taxes.

In 2019, town council directed the administration to increase reserve contributions each year until the annual tax-supported transfer to reserves equals 15 per cent of annual property taxes.

The capital budget over the next three years includes $77 million in projects and $343 million over the next 10 years. The current focus continues to be placed on transportation and utility-related infrastructure.

Council will be debating the budget on Nov. 15, 16, 21, and 24.

Two public information sessions are being held at the Spray Lake Sawmills Family Sports Centre; one from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 28, and the other on Oct. 29 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 Feedback from residents will be presented to council on Nov. 15.

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