by Phil Ambroziak
Sometimes the things you need most in life come with a price.
Along with a tax rate bylaw calling for a residential increase ranging from 2.6 to 6.2 per cent, city council also approved an increase to the long-term care facility tax levy at its May 26 meeting.
In 2013, a levy of $75 per residential and multi-unit building was introduced with funds placed in a reserve account to help cover the city’s share of the new Northland Pioneer Lodge. The levy has now been increased to $125 per single-family home while a $75 per unit charge will also be collected from those who own multi-unit buildings.
“Ultimately, we wanted to start this process last year, but didn’t want to hit everyone with it as hard as we knew we would have to,” explained mayor Gary Vidal. “We started at $75 knowing we’d probably have to increase that amount in order to fund the project in a reasonable amount of time.”
The $75 per unit levy for multi-unit dwellings is expected to increase to $125 next year.
“We now believe the levy should be collected on each individual unit instead of per building because the long-term care facility is something that will be there to serve all residents when the need arises,” Vidal added. “It should be a per household charge.”
According to city manager Diana Burton’s official recommendation to council, it’s expected, at some point during construction, the city will have to take out a loan to cover part of its share in the project.
“The discussion has been the levy would remain in place until that loan is paid off,” Burton noted.
The city’s share of the project is expected to be between $2 million and $3 million. By adding the levy as a per unit levy, Burton said the annual revenue is much more likely to cover the anticipated loan payment.
“The impact of implementing the levy per unit will be significant for a few property owners who own numerous units,” she said. “However, the investment by the city in this project is also significant and the purpose of the levy was to fund this project.”
The mayor also said he doesn’t expect the levy will ever exceed $125.
The city and the RM of Meadow Lake are responsible for funding 20 per cent of the overall cost of the new facility while the remaining 80 per cent will come from the provincial government. The overall project is expected to cost around $30 million.
According to Lionel Chabot, Prairie North Regional Health Authority (PNRHA) vice-president of finance and operations, shovels could be in the ground soon.
“If all goes according to plan, I think we can begin some work by this fall,” Chabot said.
In the meantime, he said PNRHA will be working to get some documents in place concerning the land title transfer.
“We also need just a little bit more information from the city and RM, as well as final approval from the ministry,” Chabot added. “But, things are looking good so far.”