The City of Merritt’s council has passed its 2023-2027 Financial Plan, setting the year’s budget in place and deciding a number of key tax rates for Merrittonians at its May 9 regular meeting.
Despite a delayed and somewhat unusual budgeting process due to a lack of an official financial department head and finalized end-of-year financials for 2022, city council passed its budget with time to spare before the May 15 provincial deadline. Approximately 29 percent of the city’s revenue comes from taxation, and Merritt residential property owners will see their taxes increase 4.2 percent, which the city said is modest considering inflation and other factors such as ongoing flood mitigation and recovery efforts.
“While property taxes are typically based on property values, the law states that the city can only tax what is needed for the year,” said the city in a release.
“So while property values increased 13 percent this year, tax rates are set based on actual operating costs and required capital expenditures. After considering the city’s position and the needs of the community, city council has voted in favour of a 4.2 percent tax increase on residential properties, which is well below the annual inflation rate for 2023.”
Larger items in this year’s budget include a new Voght Street repaving project, after an initial two phase approach including two roundabouts was scrapped due to a lack of funding. The city is now planning the project with $2.9 million it received from the Growing Communities Fund, plus water and sewer infrastructure reserve funds, for a total $5 million project that won’t have any roundabouts this time, just new road and underground infrastructure, plus the addition of a multi-use path. Final details of the project are still subject to change by council.
Items such as a new $400,000 garbage truck, which will include a loan for its purchase, and the order of a new fire engine for a scheduled 2025 replacement were included in the budget this year. The city will also soon purchase an e-permitting software to speed up development applications following the go-ahead from council.
The City of Merritt’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sean Smith, told the Herald that next year’s budget process should run smoother than this year, with the city recently hiring a financial department head.
“The great news is that we have hired a finance director,” said Smith. “Between hiring somebody, finishing up the financials for this year, and then getting an early start for 2024, [those] will be the key to make sure it will be a smooth running financial process.”
While the city’s financial roadmap for the next five years is set, the plan, and this year’s budget, could be amended by council as needs grow, change, or are eliminated.
For more information on the budgeting process, including proposed projects and opportunities for public input, visit www.merritt.ca/budget.