Ratepayers in the City of Winkler can expect to pay more when they receive their tax bill in late spring. An operating budget of over $22-million was presented during Tuesday's council meeting, representing a 9 % increase from budget 2022.
City Manager Jody Penner says inflation is a big reason for the increase, with more dollars needing to be allocated in all areas.

"Inflation, as everyone knows, has been really high, well over 6%, so inflation is a big part of it. And as we made note in our presentation, we've embarked on an Asset Management Plan that puts away money in reserves for future renewal of all of our assets. The City of Winkler owns about $500 million worth of assets, and the renewal cost of that is in the neighborhood of $365 million. So, essentially what we're doing is like what a condo corporation would do when they ask you to make your monthly fees to the condo, so they can pay for a roof when it goes, or for new windows when they're needed. And we're doing essentially the same thing. We're putting money away into reserves, so when our assets need to be renewed, we have the money to do it."

Penner says this is the first year the City has an official Asset Management Plan, although they've had a capital plan in the past that's been very similar.

"But when we worked through this whole project throughout 2022, what we found is there's still a deficit in terms of taking care of that infrastructure. The learning we've done through this Asset Management Plan, which included our Council in some of the learning and some of the work of putting the plan together, we found we needed to account for this growing deficit."  Penner added many cities across the country have this issue. 

"Winkler is in a really unique place where if we act now, we could really be a model community in terms of sustainability, and that's really what we're working hard towards." 

Penner noted the average taxpayer in the City can expect an increase of 5.9 % on their municipal tax bill. He says the increase will vary, based on the change to your property assessment. Overall, property value in the city went up 13.31 %, with residential properties increasing by 61 %, and 26 % for commercial, and 13 % for other.

The 2023 financial plan also has money earmarked for a number of capital projects. Park Street will be extended between Highway 14 and Northlands Parkway. A major intersection improvement is also slated for Main Street and Stanley Avenue, right outside of City Hall.

"That's a project that's been outstanding for quite some time. Some of it is related to drainage, the condition of the intersection, and doing a little bit of improvements. There's a little bit of a jog in the street, and we want to see if we can correct that a bit."

Money is also being put into an expansion of the "Pembina Pathway." 

"Reinfeld has a path coming out of the village towards Winkler, and we want to take and carry that pathway on into Winkler. For this year, it will carry up into the industrial section, so it can connect into the rest of the community. Eventually it may also connect to Highway 32."

Tuesday's Public Hearing on the 2023 Finacial Plan did bring out a delegation to City Council Chambers. Speaking on behalf of the group, Karin Banman asked council to stop funding the South Central Regional Library, citing certain books the library has on hand that the group deems as child pornography.

Winkler City Council is working on a formal response to this group. 

You can watch the presentation of the City of Winkler 2023 Financial Plan in the video below.