Thursday, March 12, 2015

Small in number, but engaged with questions as Prince Rupert residents weigh in on Budget discussions

The size of the audience on Monday night was no doubt a bit of a disappointment for members of Prince Rupert City Council, who had relocated their Monday session to the Lester Centre, likely in anticipation of a large and engaged turnout to discuss issues related to Budget Planning.

As the camera would scan the Lester Centre audience however, the numbers were clearly quite low, perhaps with no more than 20 residents in attendance in the large hall for the City's Budget Presentation and consultation session.

Still, as they say, the Show must go on, so promptly at 7 PM the Lights came up and Mayor Lee Brain opened up the 2015 Budget Consultation engagement session.

Turning first to the City's Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben to deliver a shortened version of her Budget Review of February 23rd. A thumbnail sketch of the city's plans for the year ahead, which included a recommendation of a mill rate increase of 1.9 per cent and the need for the city to start a discussion with residents to consider creating a fund through taxation, to address infrastructure issues.

She also put a focus on some of the issues related to provincial caps on taxation for industrial lands, which puts a larger burden of taxation on the residential and commercial tax payers.

Following her presentation, the audience was invited to offer comment or ask questions, and while it took a bit of coaxing for the first five minutes or so, slowly some of the city's residents in attendance took to the microphone.

With about a half dozen of those in attendance offering comments on a range of issues,  including concerns related to population decline, holding the line on taxation and looking for other ways to approach the city's current infrastructure concerns, particularly the large cost of bridge replacement in the future.

One participant offered up some thoughts on the proposed infrastructure fund that the city is considering. She also had some thoughts regarding the City's Legacy Fund, looking for a bit more background about it and providing the suggestion that it perhaps could be explained better to the public. Observing that there may still be many in the community who do not yet quite understand the workings of the Fund or how it is designed to benefit the city's finances.

Much of the public comment session however belonged to former Councillor Gina Garon, who came to the microphone frequently to raise a number of issues and ask questions of council.

Among the topics of concern to her, were items related to energy savings, succession planning, the workings of the Legacy Corporation and the recent notice from the RCMP of the need to replace the City's detachment building.

She also returned to a familiar concern that she spoke of often during her time on City Council, offering advice to Council to revisit the nature of recycling efforts in the region and to approach Regional District to develop a more workable process for the residents of the City and the Region.

For a full overview of the Question and Answer session from Monday night see our City Council Timeline feature here.

You can also view the process from Monday through the City's Video Archive.  Ms. Bomben's presentation starts at the one  minute mark and carries on through to twelve minutes, the Audience observations and commentary follows immediately following the Budget overview.

For more items related to City Council developments see our Council Discussions page here.

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