Early draft of Yellowknife's 2024 budget suggests 7.2% property tax increase

City councillors got their first look at Yellowknife's draft budget for 2024 on Monday.  (Emily Blake/CP - image credit)
City councillors got their first look at Yellowknife's draft budget for 2024 on Monday. (Emily Blake/CP - image credit)

The first public draft of Yellowknife's 2024 budget outlines a proposed property tax increase of 7.22 per cent.

City council members reviewed the draft Monday during a committee meeting.

"I just wanted to request committee members to be open minded as we are currently going through difficult economic times," said Kavi Pandoo, the city's director of corporate services, while presenting the suggested property tax increase along with budget highlights.

The impact of that suggested increase depends on your house. For residential homeowners who have an assessed value of $250,000, property taxes sat at about $1,570 in 2023. That would rise to $1,685 in 2024, a $115 increase.

Commercial properties work a little different and have a separate mill rate. Pandoo said those tend to be larger, with higher assessed values. A commercial property assessed at $1 million would pay about $970 more in property taxes.

This draft is just a starting point for budget discussions. Often, the final tax increase comes in far lower than what's initially proposed.

Last year's budget, for example, saw the proposed tax increase fall from 7.47 per cent down to 4.37 per cent.

Budget discussions usually happen in November and December, but staff said this year's budget timeline was pushed back after the wildfire evacuation.

No emergency fund — yet

City staff told councillors no fund for unexpected emergencies exists yet, but council could take $3.5 million out of an existing general fund for that purpose.

Pandoo said that's an important topic and staff held off because they didn't want to put any parameters around that conversation.

Such a fund could go toward things like climate change, cyber security and emergencies, he said.

He said that's something councillors could add when they start deliberating on the budget.

"Having no emergency funds set aside, administration believes is no longer an option," Pandoo said.

He said the idea for the reserve was created with the 2024 wildfire season in mind, and that its purpose would be to deal with the risk of unforeseen events that would have substantial costs for the city.

One-time expenses

The draft budget also includes one-time expenses like $100,000 for a consultant to review and recommend an operating model for the street outreach program, and draft a multi-year funding proposal for the program to present to the federal and territorial governments.

Some of the other one-time expenses also include spending $75,000 to upgrade the city's record and information management system, $40,000 for a coffin lowering device at the cemetery and $100,000 to implement the recommendations of an independent review of the wildfire response.

Capital spending

On the capital side of the budget, staff are suggesting $59.7 million worth of capital projects.

Some highlights include $3.6 million for the aquatic centre and $4.4 million for fire hall renovations and expansions.

The 2024 budget can be found on the city's website, and members of the public can weigh in, and send their feedback to the city from now until Jan. 31.

Budget deliberations will take place in February, with the final budget expected to be approved by council on Feb. 12.