PRINCE GEORGE - City taxpayers will see their taxes increase by 4.3% for 2019.
At the start of the budget meeting, the increase was four percent. That included a 1.5% increase to the snow removal budget, seeing it rise to $8.5 million. That generated a lot of discussions, with Councillors asking for a better break down of where the money is spent and if efficiencies can be found. Administration pointed to last year's snow removal budget hitting $9.5 million dollars and this year, already, January snowfall ate up $2 million and February's estimates are around $2.5 million. The Director of Finance for the City Kris Dalio pointed out the urgent need to the City to replenish its depleted reserve fund to at least 25% of the annual budget.
It was Councillor Frank Everitt who pointed out that Council may "take a little heat" over this decision, but added, "that's nothing compared to the heat when we can't get the snow removed."
The road rehabilitation budget will stay at $5 million, but $650,000 has been added to work on bridges, urban lanes and gravel roads.
The parks budget will be $5.3 million dollars.
But when all of the budget was hashed out, Council had three requests for additional funds. One was for $75,000 over 18 months to conduct a review of the City's Community Cultural Plan.
"This Plan will aid in prioritizing the City’s grants, public art and resource allocations for cultural services," the report to Council outlines. There was also talk of a civic precinct study that will look at all the arts facilities and, perhaps, moving them into the downtown.
The second ask garnered a lot of discussions. It was a commitment of $90,000 from the Blackburn Community Association for an All-Wheels Park. But because it will be built on City-owned land, it will become a City park. That means an additional annual budget of $22,700 to maintain it. There was the overall sense around Council that the City hasn't done much for that neighbourhood and that this would be a destination park and well-used.
The third request was around several aspects of Masich Place Stadium. The City is asking for an additional $116,000 to hire two seasonal workers, janitorial services and security and supplies specific to the synthetic field operations, track and facility upkeep.
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