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Mill rate up, spending drops down in new City budget

Property taxes are going up again for Flin Flon residents next year, with the City’s new budget forecasting both small tax increases and a cut in overall spending.
Piggy banks. Because money.

Property taxes are going up again for Flin Flon residents next year, with the City’s new budget forecasting both small increases and a cut in overall spending.

City executive staff revealed Flin Flon's 2024-25 financial plan in a public meeting at City Hall May 22, showing how the City plans to keep the lights on for the next 12 months.

“We feel like it’s the best budget we could come forward with and we hope the community feels the same, but obviously we welcome feedback,” said councillor Alison Dallas-Funk.

The City is forecasting a total of $13,567,936 in spending in 2024-25, down from last year’s budget, which had a $13,648,271 budgeted total spend but up from the actual amount the City spent, which came in at $13,530,230 - the City spent more than expected on services and less than expected on capital projects, leading to the gap.

Despite lower predicted spending, the City’s side of property tax will see hikes this year - the average home appraised at $50,000 will see tax go up by $47.05, while the average home at a $100,000 appraised value will see taxes climb by $85.07. The tax bill for a $150,000 appraised value property will jump by $123.10, while a $200,000 home will cost its owners an extra $142.11 in tax next year.

The reason for the lower spending and higher tax rate comes from the City’s grant-in-lieu deal with Hudbay. Each year, the mining company pays a single grant instead of paying property taxes on its local facility - the practice has been in place for decades. After shutting down most of its local operations in 2022, Hudbay and the City reached a deal where the company would continue to pay a grant-in-lieu, but the amount the company would pay would be less than in previous years.

The amount the City received in grant-in-lieu funding last year was around $4.13 million - in this year’s budget, that has shrunk to less than $3.5 million.

“The grant-in-lieu has dropped far more than the tax has gone up,” said Lyn Brown, the City’s chief administrative officer and the architect of this year’s budget - the last one she will oversee before retiring from her job later this year.

“We’ve done that by cutting some staff positions. We’ve done that by looking carefully at some of the things we’re budgeting for. We’ve cut back in areas where something would be nice, but we want to make sure we have what we need in the community.”

Property taxes for Flin Flon residents were already slated to go up due to the Flin Flon School Division’s budget release earlier this year, with the division proposing its highest mill rate in at least 20 years as part of its own budget, one that led to the division still eliminating some staff positions due largely to Hudbay cutting back contributions.

Brown also showed figures comparing Flin Flon’s tax rate to that in The Pas - according to the figures presented at the meeting, taxes in Flin Flon are higher than they are in The Pas for properties with lower appraised values, but are far lower for higher valued homes - a $2,109.92 municipal cut on a $150,000 appraised home in Flin Flon compared to a $2,665.58 payment on the same home in The Pas, for instance.

During the presentation, Brown mentioned that some City programs meant to encourage economic activity would continue. Those include the City’s homebuyer program, where the City uses money from a provincial government grant to cover costs relating to homeownership for eligible buyers - six new buyers used the program in 2023-24. Also continuing will be the City’s plan to demolish derelict buildings - 14 more buildings were knocked down in 2023-24 and more are slated to follow this coming year, with the City preparing to sell the land those homes stood on to developers in time.

City officials are also preparing for a celebration of Flin Flon’s centennial in 2027, marking the 100th anniversary of when the community as we now know it first began. Exact details of what that may look like - and what price tag would be attached - were not included in the budget.

Also mentioned in the budget was the City’s plan to pay for its major capital project - the replacement of the Flin Flon Aqua Centre. Construction of the pool has already begun, but the brunt of the costs come due this year - the City has sent aside just over $11 million for capital project spending, including $8.2 million for the pool project.

That cost will not be paid all at once - instead, the City’s plan is to put that cost into a debenture, a long-term debt obligation that will spread the payment over the next 20 years. The City is wrapping up a similar arrangement on the water treatment plant and the pool debenture is currently scheduled to go into effect at the same time the water plant one ends, meaning there will be minimal tax impact due to the pool - the City will pay about as much as it already was on the water plant cost.

City executive staff also said pursuing grants to cut the cost of the pool down and change the plan is still on the table - for instance, if the City were to receive a large grant to cover construction or operation cost, the debenture plan could change, maybe even be eliminated entirely if the amount received was high enough.

The City also plans to look at new ways to raise money in the 2025-26 budget, including looking for new grants, attempting to raise funds through land sales and development and debating discussion on a possible entertainment tax, through which the City would take a cut from tickets for sporting events, concerts or festivals taking place on City property. That same idea was discussed tentatively during last year’s budget, but did not lead to any change or new fees this year and was not included in either this year or last year's budgets.

A full breakdown of the City’s budget presentation will be found on the City’s website at City councillors have given both first and second reading to the budget and related measures already at council meetings and will most likely give it third and final reading, thus approving it, at the next council meeting June 4.

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