Steinbach City Council is getting ready to finalize their budget for 2024, and with cost increases and a limited budget, they are going to spend some time rethinking how they do things.
Mayor Earl Funk says between inflation, increased interest rates, and increased cost of construction, Steinbach’s long term capital projects for the years 2024-2026 have had significant increases.
Funk says that going forward, these issues will put quite a bit of pressure on the budget.
“Going forward we want to leave the city in the shape that it’s in today, and it’s in fantastic shape financially, and we want to make sure it stays there.”
He explains that as Steinbach grows, the city’s infrastructure needs to grow as well.
“We’ve got a project that is marked for 2025, it is the twinning to the lagoon. Because of the growth the capacity has to grow.”
The project was originally estimated at just under $4 million. The new estimation with the increases is coming out at $6.5 million, which is a significant increase to that project.
“We will have to find money somewhere to get projects like that done. And that’s a project that has to be done due to the growth of our community.”
Construction costs have definitely come up, but Funk emphasizes the majority of the projects that have gone up a large amount have to do with underground infrastructure, water, and wastewater.
“There are a lot of pressures on the budget, but the greatest pressures we are seeing right now are the increase of these projects.”
Another example Funk highlights is a project for 2024 that is a wastewater renewal.
He says when the project was first estimated, it was estimated at $1.5 million, and now the estimates from this year are almost $3.2 million.
He notes that since council can only work with the numbers they have, when they estimate the price of a project, they always estimate the price around what it would cost to do that day, rather than guessing what the price might be three years down the line.
They then revise the estimate before they vote on it as a project.
“Before we vote on it as a project, we go back and put pricing as of today into it, so many of these were priced out 2018 and 2019, and so now being priced at 2023 pricing, that’s where you are seeing the increase.”
Funk says the challenge with getting more funding is that they don’t want to raise taxes, as council wants to maintain a good tax base so they can continue to foster growth.
Instead of raising taxes, council is looking to gain funding from higher levels of government for some of their projects, and is also considering postponing or reducing the scope of some projects.
“Council will definitely have to sit down and look at these item for item. We are committed to making sure that we get these projects done, but also get them done in a way that is affordable to our city.”
For the most part, many of Steinbach's projects get done through a combination of reserve funding and borrowing.
In the last little while, council has been doing some projects over the course of two years instead of one, so they can have it over two budget years.
Funk notes that on some projects, they increase borrowing, or if reserves can handle it, they may increase what they take from reserves.
At their study session they will be setting up the 2024 budget and making more finalized decisions for the upcoming year.
“We will spend a lot of time strategizing. We have to strategize going forward as these costs are coming up, what are we going to do? Where is the funding going to come from? Or how are we going to move these projects around so that it’s going to work financially for the city.”
Steinbach City Council will have their study session in mid-November.
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