PRINCE GEORGE - The City's annual round of budget discussions formally got underway this week with the first Finance and Audit Committee meeting. The Committee was presented with a report that suggests a tax hike that is significantly higher than last's year's 1.5%.
For a trio of reasons, the City is looking at the need to raise property taxes by five percent for 2019.
The first issue is the snow removal budget. For the past two years, the City has had to re-allocate $1 million from the winter sand pick up budget. As such, the City is recommending "...an increase to the snow control levy is now being recommended to allow for the full cost of snow removal. Also, due to the volatility of the amount of snowfall that can occur from one year to the next, the levy should be high enough to create a reserve that is equal to 25% ($2.125 million) of the annual net snow control expenses, as well as the capital needs of the snow control function."
If approved, the snow removal budget will jump to $8.5 million.
Another issue was highlighted by the Winnipeg Street sinkhole. The City needs to address some of the growing demands for improved infrastructure.
The City "... may wish to consider increasing this levy every year at a rate of 2% to help the City maintain our infrastructure at the current service level."
And finally, the City is looking at a bill of $1 million with the introduction of the Employer's Health Tax.
At this point, the Finance and Audit Committee is only looking at the five percent hike as a recommendation.
"We asked the staff to come back with what types of services we could cut to achieve three percent, four percent and then compare that with the five percent," says Garth Frizzell, Chair of the Finance and Audit Committee. "We'll look at that in Finance and Audit and then bring a recommendation to Council in the new year."
Budget discussions are scheduled for February 11th and 13th.
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