Iqaluit property taxes to jump by 8 per cent

“The administration is so intent on picking our pockets”



Iqaluit homeowners can expect to pay more property taxes and water rates as a result of city council approving its 2006 budget this week.

Rising inflation rates, fuel costs and power bills are a few reasons why city officials say they need $620,000 in extra revenue this year. They argue it’s either cut services, or pass the bill on to homeowners.

Councillors chose the second option, approving an eight per cent increase in taxes and a five per cent hike in water rates. Iqalummiut will notice higher water bills next month. The property taxes, however, won’t change until new mill rates are set, which won’t happen until after March.

In addition, new, higher property assessments done by the GN.

Bills currently being mailed out are based on 50 per cent of what residents paid last year. The difference will be made up when the second installment is mailed out in June.

Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik said the tax increase works out to an extra $40 per month for the average homeowner.

Councillors did cut $78,000 from the draft budget. But those savings show up as a bigger surplus in city coffers, up from $17,000 to $97,000, rather than lower taxes for homeowners.

Much of those savings comes from reducing the number of accidents city vehicles are insured for, from 20 to 12. That will save $40,000, if the city’s truck drivers can avoid smash-ups. They found themselves in about 20 accidents last year.

Smaller savings came from dropping new computer purchases for the finance department, and spending less on council’s wage compensation and travel expenses.

Keith Irving and other members of the Iqaluit homeowners’ association walked out of the budget meeting while the mayor spoke. They describe the budget as a “violation of trust” with homeowners, and say the city should have done more to cut costs.

“That’s the best they can come up with? That their drivers are going to drive more safely?” Irving asked. “It’s very sad.”

He questions whether the city’s financial information is accurate, pointing out that the budget’s financial figures date back to October 2005. He also says he suspects the city has run up a deficit.

“They’ve fattened up the budget to get enough cash to get rid of the deficits before people notice,” he said.

“The administration is so intent on picking our pockets for everything they can.”

Irving says his group will consider what to do next. Meanwhile, the city has sent its new budget to the Government of Nunavut for approval.

Five councillors voted in favour of the budget, with one abstaining and one voting against it.

Coun. Simanuk Kilabuk said the budget process hasn’t been clear to the public and withheld his vote. Coun. Claude Martel, who did not attend earlier budget meetings, voted against the motion, arguing that taxes shouldn’t increase.

The budget discussions, mind-numbing at times, saw little participation from councillors. Only Nancy Gillis, Brad Hall and Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik attended every meeting.

Big expenses in the budget include an extra $110,000 on recruitment and advertising vacant job posts. Last year the city saw many department heads and other city staff leave.

Another $115,000 will go towards replacing the copper boilers inside City Hall, and pulling out asbestos in the connecting pipes.

The city will pay $20,000 more on insurance premiums, mostly because some of its aging and unused buildings, like the Butler building and IODE hall, are considered big liabilities.

About $70,000 will be set aside in reserve funds, with most of that money earmarked for a new ambulance, which the city needs to purchase by 2007.

The budget also includes a 10 per cent increase in salaries, to prepare for union negotiations this year.

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