Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Council's first look at Budget 2019 offers up 2 percent tax cut; increases to RCMP and bylaw staffing

The City's Finance Officer provided the first draft of the city's budget process at Monday's City Council session and for city taxpayers, the prospect of a reduction in the tax rate would make for the key element to the night's take aways from Ms. Corinne Bomben's budget planning.

Such was the enthusiasm for City Council to get word out on the document, that almost as soon as the City Council broadcast had signed off for the night, the city had issued its press release heralding the proposed tax rate cut of 2 percent.

The information sheet from the city's communication manager Veronika Stewart also made note of many of the main highlights of the start of the budget process for the year, a financial blue print that will also provide for some continued spending on a few of the large scale infrastructure programs.

Included in among the Spending plan is:

An increase to the operational paving budget of 10% 

Additional paving investments in, the Lester Centre parking lot Wantage road and the airport road 

Continuation of the dam replacement project, with excess costs covered by borrowing, and dividends from Prince Rupert Legacy Inc.

Completion of the West Berm expansion of the landfill, while the City works towards the development of a new 35 year landfill cell

Replacement of boilers at the Recreation Complex to increase energy efficiency

The scheduled Airport Ferry refit

Purchase of a new Garbage truck - with staff exploring the possibility of implementing curbside recycling pick up through the purchase of a multi-purpose vehicle

The enforcement of laws and bylaws will also see some benefits from the 2019 budget should all the recommendation get the go ahead after the consultation period.

The city's RCMP detachment will see the addition of two new RCMP members

While the city will bring on an additional Bylaw Enforcement Officer to better address unsightly properties in Prince Rupert

And with the need for a new detachment still very much a top priority, the city will move forward with a Capital reserve for loan repayments on the upcoming RCMP detachment.

However, it was the prospect of being able to reduce the taxation load on residents and business owners that was to be the spotlight feature of the CFO's review on the night, with the increased revenue streams from industrial projects and other areas providing the wiggle room for the 2 per cent drop.

Though Ms. Bomben was cautious as any financial official may be. making sure to remind those in the Chamber and viewing at home that some home assessments may have gone up as of this January and that would have some impact on the final tallies for some residents or business owners in the community when it comes to their tax payment requirements.

Still, for those who have assessments that were the same as the year previous, this upcoming tax season may deliver some relief from the burdens of recent years.

“A major goal of our Council has been to attract new sources of revenue, so that we can make Prince Rupert a more livable and financially sustainable community,” said Mayor Lee Brain. “This year, we are happy to be able to transfer a portion of the benefit of new revenues to our commercial and residential taxpayers.” -- Prince Rupert Mayor Lee Brain

As part of their information statement of Monday night, Council noted that while the city has held the line at 0 percent increases in past years, this marks the first time in decades that the city has moved to introduce a tax reduction.

That was not the only news delivered on Monday evening however, also grabbing some of the attention on the night, were two members of the Mayor's Select Committee on Council Compensation delivering their findings on a salary review that they have conducted.

In concert with the Budget Process, council members and the public will have a chance to consider the findings of the committee before any final decisions are made at the end of the budget process in April.

Monday night, the salary recommendations included:

The continuation of the Mayor's job as  that of a full time status position, with a recommended increase in salary from the previous full time pay of $60,000 to $75,000 per year. Compensation for councillors was also recommended to see an increase from $13,431 to $18,750 per year.

Those values include the city taking on the cost of the recently lost tax exemption as of December 31st of 2018, which saw council members lose a 1/3 tax free exemption from Revenue Canada

All of the elements of the 2019 Budget plan will be up for public discussion at the Regular Council Sessions of March 4th and 11th.

As this week moves forward we'll provide for our usual city council related features of the City Council Timeline, as well as  a number of  items of review for a few of the key story lines from Monday's Council session.

The extra bit of time allowing for a deeper look at the the range of themes that were introduced on Monday Budget document, as well as to explore some of council's plans for spending for the year ahead.

For more items of note on Monday's council session see our Council session page here.

A wider overview of Council Discussion themes can be explored here.

To return to the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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