Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Familiar commentaries from veteran Councillors shape the narrative for 2024 Budget approval

Prince Rupert City Council moved forward towards a potential 7.7 tax increase come July of 2024, providing first, second and third reading towards the 2024 Draft Budget and Five Year Financial Plan, the final approval to the document coming in early December.

With a veteran council membership, some of whom have been in council chambers for nine years the conversations  related to the 2024 budget were quite familiar, with the concerns of years ago, still making for much of the Council overview from Monday evening.

The Council conversation made for the bulk of the Committee of the Whole session which started with a call for Public Comment towards the 2024 Draft Budget, with Mayor Pond expressing some surprise that there were no members of the public in the gallery to take advantage of the comment opportunity.

That surprise, perhaps should be tempered slightly by the Council membership, as the city's information streams prior to the Council session did not really highlight the last chance aspect of the session. 

Though to be fair to Council and staff, the participation level by the public was low through the process,  outside of the public forum at Coast Mountain College earlier this month.

Of note towards that ability for public comment, the public will actually have one final chance to share some thoughts on the 2024 budget, as it would be part of the agenda for a future public meeting, likely December 11th, and thus it would fall into the area of public comment related to agenda items.

So Council may not have heard the last word from their constituents just yet.

The Mayor then called on  Chief Financial Officer Corinne Bomben for a synopsis of some of the feedback the city received during the month long budget process, all of the documentation is included in the Agenda package for the Committee meeting. 

From that short overview, Ms. Bomben  then asked Council to direct staff to prepare the Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw using amendments presented in Attachment 3 of information attached to the Agenda.

Towards some context on the taxation request, the CFO also provided a bit of an overview as to where Prince Rupert sits on the taxation level standings,  compared to other communities. Ms Bomben observing as to how Prince Rupert was about middle of the pack, noting of some higher rates found in Greater Vancouver area,  the  Okanagan, as well as the proposed tax hike in Terrace of 9%. 

She observed how the lowest was found in Rossland at 5%.

"We are all kind of in the same situation it appears, so we're not unique in this, though we do offer some unique services that others don't offer" -- CFO Corinne Bomben

The Mayor then opened the Committee of the Whole session as the forum for Council conversation, offering a chance for Council members to share their thoughts on the process that had moved forward over the month.

The discussion opened through a question related to exploring the differences between the differences between the Prince Rupert and Terrace fire service and the latter's hybrid service of professional and paid volunteer members. As well Councillor Cunningham reprised a previous discussion on the city's level of service to port related industries in the region.

Our Council Timeline feature provides an overview towards sone of that discussion.

Towards observations on the Budget process and the proposed increase to taxation of 7.7 percent some of the key takeaways from the Council membership over the course of the near hour discussion look as follows:

Councillor Nick Adey

On taxation in other areas compared to Prince Rupert

"The conclusion that we're not alone is appropriate. It seems to be across the board, that Municipal government is facing a hill to climb in terms of revenues and I think that you know given that it seems to be province wide I think that really ... suggests that its a ball that needs to be in the court of Provincial government in terms how to adjust how these things are done"

On the choices facing City Council 

"Our choices seem fairly clear we can maintain existing services at the price of a 7.7  property tax increase. We can cut services that are offered in order to reduce that tax impact.  

Or in light of a couple of items that came through the public commentary, we could in fact vote for a higher number in order to roll in some things that are identified in the budget as discretionary spending. And I think the two largest items there are the Fourth Avenue Stairs and sone requested increases to the Community Grants, in particular the Lester Centre.  

And so given those are the three options, my sense of the public's opinion, based on people I talk to on the streets, based on what I read in the feedback that the city got. Is that the public opinion ranges, from I think quite a few people who understand that these are challenging times and although nobody is going to do a song and dance there is an understanding that there is going to have to be a price paid for the services that we provide, so there is a reluctant acceptance. 

There are others who think that there are places where we can cut and I think that those are tough places to go.

What I don't see, I don't really see anybody rooting for an increase beyond the 7.7%"


Councillor Barry Cunningham

On the choices facing City Council 

"Well, you know, it's stairs versus the Lester Centre,  versus parks, versus Enhancement Grants. You know like I remember Councillor Adey a few of months ago on about parks on the west side of town and things like that. 

So you know, we've gotta make tough choices here whether we like it or not. And you know there's groups in each segment that want more money, we don't have the money to give. So you know like it's unfortunate it is what it is. 

I know that Staff will be looking actively to find ... the stairs seem to be a priority, but ah the Lester Centre is definitely looking for money and needs it. Parks, we need parks and there's people lobbying for that. So we've got to take it all into stride and try to make the best decision for the town. It's unfortunate, the buck stops here"

On the issue of taxation and the impacts from it

"Well you know every year we have this conversation, people don't want to increase taxes, they don't want to cut services but one or the other has to happen.

You know if you don't want to give the library 27,000 close the library one day a week, close the pool one day a week and then you save money.

But you know of the 7 point something increase,  if you look at it, almost six of it, a little more is wages a new contract for the RCMP and our CUPE workers. 

You know you put up taxi fares you have to pass it on  to the customer, we put up wages we have to pass it on to the town. Everyone wants more money right now.

We have to honour those commitments we have made to our workers. You know our workers have slugged it out through the winter, some of them working 20 hour days. 

And you know they got modest increases in their contract this time, they were actually helping us. 

But you know at the end of the day  everyone gets a raise and we've got to live with it.

And we want the services, we've got to pay for them. It's that simple" 


Councillor Wade Niesh

On Council's past history at budget time and this year's spending

"I look at the last nine budgets and I think we've come a long way from many years ago. And you know for years I was strong against raising taxes, because I think nine years ago we were well above the average. And it took us quite a few years of minimal tax increases, or even a decrease one year, or many years of zero increases to kind of get us back to the average. 

And if you look at our taxes, we are one of the higher ones in the North but we're not extremely high, Prince George is actually probably the highest and you know you look at that and it took us quite a few years to get to that point.

Now this year, you know with our 2023 budget and now with this 2024 budget, we have these big proposals of huge tax increases and you know there's nothing in these budgets that are like I had said in the past fun things.

These are all what actually everyone in this town is screaming for and they're screaming for water.

And so if you look at our budget this year you know the majority of our budget is spent on water, or things related to water or equipment to fix water pipes. 

So I look at this budget increase as something that is actually giving the people what they're wanting, for the majority and that is water"

On planning for the future ahead

"We're not living the high life in this community and we need to attract people, and by attracting people we need to make sure we keep  our services going at the level they are going now, which is not really that high.

We're not a sleepy little town that can just keep on going with a little budget, we are a town that is ready to explode with you know expansion of ports and all these different things that we have to be prepared for.

You know, some people say we have too much staff at City hall, I say we don't.

I say that we have a good staff that is keeping the operation going and they are working hard and there's people that you know, are doing multiple jobs and they're doing a good job of it and I would defend anybody in this building here and I have no problem with it.

So when I look at this increase, it's terrible, I don't want to see it, I hate to have to say that a 7.7 precent increase is a good thing because it's not.

But it is for the most part doing what the people want ... and I think that that is why I have to agree with the proposal"

On community perspective and expectations at Budget time

"The average home, is probably with all your bills and remember the property taxes, is almost forty percent of the money collected is on behalf of other agencies, so the City is collecting only about sixty percent of that money.

But put that into perspective, if you're paying ten or twelve bucks a day, think what you're getting for ten or twelve bucks a day.

You're getting police, fire, water, roads, sewer,  you know library, parks  or a Starbucks coffee.

So you know you have to put that into perspective, if you truly feel that you're getting overtaxed by a government then you know you almost have to look where you losing 100 or 200 dollars a day off of your paycheque and what you're paying to provincially and federally.

And take a look at it and say what am I getting for my 100 or 200 a day provincially and federally and then we can talk a little bit more about taxes collected.

So you know, I don't think ten bucks a day, for all the services you get is really pretty minor ... it costs money to run things and if you can really look at this community and say that ten dollars a day is you're not getting your money's worth then you know I would  like to have that argument"


Councillor Randhawa 

On Legacy Fund, Federal funds and how they are is used

"I understand that with inflation we have to keep up with that, and other expenses. Thankfully, we have a Legacy Fund and we have Federal money there and we are using that money for Capital projects.

And to pay some fees and debts with that, so that's great, but on the other hand like we have people struggling with loss of jobs and other expenses.

I'm wondering if we have any room to pay for capital projects from Legacy Fund to give a little break on tax increase, like 7.7 percent is a huge tax ... that's peoples money too 7.7, so if we can deliver a bit more money from Legacy Fund from capital projects"


Councillor Reid-Skelton Morven

On the choices council has to make

"To reiterate we've exhausted our expenditures on those (Legacy) Funds for this year and for the following year at this time. At this point it's trying to get more money ... as well as finding ways to move forward with the demand for growth and the demand for repairs at the same time.

We've got a lot of balls in the air obviously, there's a lot of different things and a lot of different priorities"


At the conclusion of the near fifty minutes of conversation, Council then moved the requisition for Direction towards preparation of the Five Year Plan  to the Regular Council Session to follow. 

All members voted in favour with the exception of Councillor Randhawa.

Following that, Council moved forward on two additional resolutions, the first related towards how to fund the Fourth Avenue Stairs work with staff to explore opportunities for funding, or realize changes in revenue streams; with the second resolution related to the Lester Centre request and the need to set up some discussions towards their objectives.

Mayor Pond also noted that there was also some work to be done towards Community Enhancement Grant elements.

As a closing thought the Mayor noted that the process so far is to approve spending by 7.7 percent, with the city still to hear more on the revenue side.

"What we're really passing right now tonight, is a spending budget, it increases spending by 7.7 percent.  We don't know yet, what the revenue side is, we can guess what the revenue side is. But there could be all kinds of new things introduced" -- Mayor Herb Pond

Ms. Bomben, followed up on that theme,  noting that staff wasn't asking for the taxation of 7.7 percent at this time, as that taxation request won't be known until next year.

"I just want to clarify, we're not asking for an adoption of 7.7 percent, we're actually requesting direction on the deficit which we have right now with is 1.8 million dollars made up through the five year financial plan. 

Whatever it translates into in 2024 won't be know until 2024. Presently it's 7.7  just for people to understand how that might actually impact them" -- CFO Corinne Bomben

Mr. Pond observed that should the city's revenue situation change favourably in the year ahead, that it could be possible to fund the initiative slightly differently.

"I said it last time we went through the discussion, I don't want to hold out false hope, I don't say that you know saying oh, don't worry there's a magic solution coming. But should the revenue picture change favourably through any number of the other initiatives that we are looking at. 

It is possible that this one point whatever million dollar increase could be funded sightly differently"  -- Mayor Herb Pond

The first three readings of the required bylaw, took place in the Regular Council Session, with all but Councillor Randhawa supporting the request.

Councillor Adey's two resolutions were also approved to move forward into 2024 as part of the Regular session.

The  full Budget Discussion is available for review from the City's Video Archive it makes for the first hour of discussion for Monday's session. 

More notes on the Monday Council Session can be reviewed from our Council Session Archive page.

Our archive of Budget pieces and links to other stories can be explored here.



  1. Hello, I am a Prince Rupert taxpayer. The taxes paid in other communities has no bearing on my taxes. This is a Prince Rupert tax increase. Speaking about other communities tax increases is just blowing smoke and a chance to let on they are working on our behalf.

    1. Hello, I am also a Prince Rupert taxpayer. And your comment does not represent us all. The trend of high tax increases in other communities this year is not blowing smoke, it is an unfortunate reality. Almost every community is facing challenges from the craziness of the past few years. Gas prices alone; think asphalt, think heavy equipment operations, think infrastructure upgrades. Price of materials way up. Cost of living increases for unions. The list of factors not unique to PR are quite long and definitely relevant

    2. Well why did no one mention Kelowna tax increase 4.76%
      ,other communities tax increases are not relevant when discussing Prince Rupert situation. It is just noise.

    3. Makes sense that one of the fastest growing cities in the province would be able to keep their tax rates lower than ours