Humboldt city budget approved, features two per cent tax increase

Humboldt council has passed a budget that focuses on road, water and sewer projects, as well as increases the tax levy by two per cent.

The budget was approved at a special meeting Dec. 20.

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“Two per cent is something I think council is proud of,” said Rob Muench, Humboldt’s mayor, adding it’s the lowest tax increase he’s seen since he’s been on council. “We’ve had some things like water rates increasing, so I’m hoping this will offset some of those.”

Council still has to approve a plan on how taxes will be applied to raise that two per cent. The city will generate $16.2 million in total revenues and spend $12.7 million on operating expenses.

Almost $3.2 million will be spent on capital projects this year, with the biggest project being a $1 million refurbishment of a sewer lift station.

“It has been deemed as something that needs to be done,” the mayor said. “It’s hard to spend $1 million on something but that project is going to help alleviate some of our storm water issues that we’ve had infiltrating the lift station.”

There will be $678,000 spent to replace water mains and $532,000 to repave roads.

At Centennial Park, $150,000 will be spent to build ball diamonds, a project that was to be done this year but delayed as the contractor couldn’t make it in time to do the work. There will also be some work done on a trail system.

“Now we’re able to combine the work we’re going to do next year anyway with the work we’re going to do in 2018, so we’ll be able to make it a bigger project and re-tender it and we’re hoping to get a better price on it that way,” Muench said.

The city will spend $50,000 to knock down the wall between Jubilee Hall and Jubilee A and install a semi-permanent stage. That would increase its capacity from 300 to 400 and work as a stopgap until a new theatre is built.

“It was built 30 years ago when Humboldt was probably about 1,000 people less, so it will be nice to have a hall that’s able to handle a little bit more for bigger events and bigger weddings,” Muench said.

There will be $30,000 spent to develop a plan for North Hospital Park that includes a toboggan hill, off-leash dog park, a baseball diamond, a playground and walking trails. Michael Ulriksen, the city’s community and leisure director, said to make that plan a reality, user groups will have to fundraise.

A new fleet replacement will spend a total of $525,000 for items like a new street sweeper, ice cleaner and a side-by-side.

“We have a fairly stable, long-term fleet plan now where we’re replacing our fleet equipment on a planned basis as opposed to when it finally breaks down and it can’t be utilized,” said Joe Day, the city’s administrator.

The budget anticipates it will raise an extra $20,000 from a business license program, which is something that only home-based businesses pay right now. There would be 200 commercial properties paying an extra $100, if council decide to approve the program in February

“Right now, we don’t know which businesses are in Humboldt because there’s no licensing,” Muench said. “We’re looking at having a small fee that we can use to prepare things like a directory that we can offer to the public if they’re looking for a plumber or electrician in town.”

Such a director would make it easier to promote business in Humboldt for both the city and the Chamber of Commerce.

Council did object to a plan from city staff to strip all of the money going to Communities in Bloom, which has problems with getting enough volunteers, and devote it to urban forestry. They decided to budget $5,000 to help a new group get started, with the money going back to urban forestry if no volunteers decide to get the program active again.

“What we’ve decided is to try to run that program with volunteers, as opposed to the city running everything,” the mayor said.

There will be $3,600 going to Hangzhou, China to help promote Humboldt to investors. The original plan was to not have Humboldt pay anything, but grant requirements from the government of China requires the city to contribute 20 per cent of the cost.

The city is also expecting to reduce its debts by $600,000 to $3.8 million by the end of 2019.

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