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UPDATED: Summerside's utility rates and user fees for rec programs going up, but taxes unchanged

Summerside Deputy Mayor and finance liaison Frank Costa delivers the city's annual 2018/2019 budget address during a public meeting Monday morning.
Summerside Deputy Mayor and finance liaison Frank Costa delivers the city's annual 2018/2019 budget address during a public meeting Monday morning. - Colin MacLean

SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. – If the city of Summerside's 2018 budget remains unchanged from the preview budget, Summerside residents are going to be paying more for their utilities and municipal recreation programs in 2018-2019. However, property tax rates will stay the same.
Water and sewer rates will be adjusted up by 37 cents per month for water and 83 cents per month for sewer.
Electric rates from Summerside Electric will continue to be matched to those of Maritime Electric and rise 2.3 per cent as of March 1.
User rates for recreation programs will go up three per cent, though lighting and user fees at most outdoor facilities will continue to be free of charge.
Honorariums for mayor and council, often a contentious issue, will see no increases as of yet, but since Summerside's rate is tied to Charlottetown's, this could change.

Deputy Mayor and finance liaison Frank Costa, called the budget a good one that balances a number of priorities, such as infrastructure renewal, services and debt reduction.

Costa credited revenues from the city-owned Summerside Electric with helping to keep property taxes from increasing, as they have been since the city was incorporated in 1995.

In terms of the utility and recreation increases, Costa said they are reasonable increases intended to help pay for ongoing maintenance and upgrades.

“We’re trying to stay ahead of what our operating costs are. We want those utilities to be self-sufficient so that we’re not incurring any deficit in their operations,” he said.

In terms of the recreation fees going up, Costa said the increase was nominal and the city would continue to not charge for things, such as use and lighting of the outdoor sports fields and pre-school skating at Credit Union Place.

Other highlights from the budget include a new splash pad for Legere Park on Central Street at a cost of $118,000. An additional $100,000 is also included for playground equipment upgrades.

Community groups are getting a total of $435,000 in grants.

The city intends to spend nearly $10 million (including federal and provincial funding) in water, sewer and electric infrastructure work.

The city is also projecting a $2.5-million decrease in the city's general capital fund debt, which currently sits at $30.6 million.

Summerside Mayor Bill Martin said he was pleased with how the budget shook out, adding that council and the various department managers in the city all sat down together this year to tackle what discretionary spending there was. Council has traditionally done this separate from the managers, but Martin said their deliberations went much smoother than other years because they were included.

Overall, Martin said 2018 is shaping up to be a good one for the city.

“We managed to strike a pretty good balance, and I want to thank the eight of you,” he said, speaking to councillors.

Martin also acknowledged that this will be his last city budget as mayor, as he has decided not to run again in municipal elections scheduled for later this year.

A preview of the city's latest $63-million budget was introduced at a public meeting, Monday.
In a departure from previous years, council did not vote on the document at that meeting. The new Municipal Government Act requires at least two weeks between the introduction of a municipal budget and the vote to accept it. This is to allow public input. Summerside has decided to wait a little longer than required and will vote on the budget at its Feb. 20 meeting.
This year's budget is also unusual in that it covers 15 months, rather than the usual 12. This is again a result of the new act moving the city's budget year to a fiscal timeframe rather than a calendar one.
As a result of this one-time shift, many of the numbers represented in the budget will diverge from their usual amounts, as they represent a longer timeframe than the 2017 budget.

Colin.MacLean@JournalPioneer.com

@JournalPMacLean

Five Fast Facts:

  • Summerside has budgeted $195,000 for new firefighting and police equipment for this year.
  • The city intends for a community working group to assess current transit services in the city and discuss how to improve it.
  • In addition to the $435,000 in community grants that will be handed out this year, the city typically spends an additional $250,000 in in-kind services for community groups.
  • The city is changing the way it funds the Lobster Carnival, with less emphasis on direct municipal funding and more on making the event self-reliant from sponsorships and other revenue sources.   
  • The city has budgeted $306,000 for sidewalk construction and repair this year.

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