The preliminary budget for 2024 was presented to Weyburn City Council Monday night.
The numbers presented to the councillors included a proposed 6.47 percent tax increase, which would work out to roughly an additional $10 a month on a home valued at $300,000. The increase would bring in roughly $650,467 in revenue for the city.
The preliminary numbers in the budget show an operating budget of $22,265,204 and a capital budget of $2,813,000.
Part of the capital expenses include new contained breathing apparatus for the Weyburn Fire Department, a fleet upgrade for the Weyburn Police Service, asphalt work for a number of projects around the city, traffic lights for the intersection of 1st Avenue and 16th Street, stormwater and sanitary system upgrades, and culvert and storm line work.
Some of the initiatives proposed in the preliminary 2024 budget include the 2024 municipal election, new desks for the Weyburn City Council Chambers, and the implementation of an online payment service for the city’s website. There are a number of public works initiatives as well, including the replacement of the traffic lights at Government Road and 1st Avenue, and work on the asphalt along 1st Avenue from Government Road to 2nd Street.
Some of the other infrastructure projects, highlighted as the city’s Infrastructure Revitalization Program, include sidewalk replacements along Coteau, 4th Avenue, 10th Street, Bison Avenue and Barber Crescent. Other asphalt projects include along Prairie Avenue from Government Road to Mergens Street, and Railway Avenue from 5th Street to 8th Street. Some of the work could also be eligible for grants under the Urban Highway Connector Program, and expressions of interest for grants will be submitted as part of the process.
Part of the initiatives for 2024 is the development of a downtown Weyburn revitalization project. Director of Engineering, Jennifer Wilkinson, explained that in the coming year, the work will primarily be consultations with business owners in the downtown area and the public.
"We want to engage with the downtown users and the businesses, and come up with a plan for what we see going forward for the downtown," Wilkinson said during the meeting. "It will give us a map of the different projects that can be done." She noted these projects could range from replacing sidewalks and redoing asphalt to upgrades from other perspectives.
"Basically, our timeline for next year would be to get that conceptual plan in place, and then it can map out the investment that's needed over the next few years to determine how to revitalize the downtown."
The fleet budget, which is roughly the same as it was in 2023, includes adding a tandem dump truck to the fleet, as well as replacing a street sweeper and adding a new mower to the fleet. The Leisure and Parks budget includes funding for the public library, a rebuild of the Tatagwa Boardwalk, and the development of a plan for a park on the site of the former Haig School.
One item that was included in the initiatives for the Weyburn Police Service is the upcoming collective bargaining equipment. Councillors heard from Deputy Police Chief Brent VanDeSype that meetings between the Board of Commissioners and the Weyburn Police Association are expected to start very soon.
The councillors urged residents to take advantage of the open house that is scheduled for early November. Councillor Larry Heggs, taking part in the budget process for the first time, highlighted one part of the balancing act administration deals with when putting a budget together.
"There's a huge challenge when the citizen survey (conducted in the summer) comes back and it says we want to reduce spending, we want to maintain or increase capital and increase the level of service," Heggs said. "That in itself is a struggle, so I appreciate this and I look forward to the feedback from the residents."
The administration also answered some questions about how the increase in taxes factors into the budgeting. Councillor Jeff Richards asked City Manager Mathew Warren about how much of the $650,000 that would be raised by the extra $10 a month in property taxes would be going to new services, new projects, or new positions.
Warren stated infrastructure is a key part of the budget, as that has been something they have been consistently hearing from the council as well as residents as to where the money should go.
"The last thing is that a part of that increase funds is we do have three collective agreements that are actually expiring this year," Warren added. "We have our CUPE, our fire (department) and our police (service) all expiring here on December 31st. We will see increased raises within that, and that's expected."
With the preliminary budget now released, the next step will be an open house on November 7th. It is scheduled to be held at the Credit Union Spark Centre. Then, the budget discussions will be held on November 27th with a chance for delegations to appear to discuss the budget. Then the final budget will be put before the council for approval on December 11th.
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