Grande Prairie city council has whittled its tax increase for 2017 down from 4.2 per cent to 0.5. The four year budget was set in 2015, but council takes a look each year to make adjustments. With the economy as it is, councillor Chris Thiessen says residents have been vocal about what they want.
“And they’ve been saying for the last few years, ‘Enough! We have the highest taxes; we don’t want any raises in taxes; do what you can to make it happen.’ I think the demand is there that at least in the short term we do not want anymore significant raises to their taxes.”
In order to bring the rate down, council will take $500,000 of its surplus for the next two years and will pay annexation costs from its Financial Stabilization reserve. The 0.5 per cent increase will mean an extra $17 dollars to the average home assessed at $360,000 dollars. This year a home owner at that amount paid $3,376.
Council also said no to several funding requests for next year, including $200,000 for Evergreen Park, $25,000 to renovate the Grande Prairie Curling Rink, and the Philip J. Currie Dinosaur Museum. Mayor Bill Given noted that they were asked for another $150,000 each for operating and capital costs when the city already invested $3.5 million into its construction.
“The City of Grande Prairie puts a significant amount of operating funding into city-owned facilities, and I think that that’s an important contribution to capacity in our region. I think others need to be able to step up and support facilities to at least an equitable amount.”
That sentiment was echoed several times in situations where it appears the city funds more than its fair share for initiatives that benefit the region. It was also part of the reason that council chose to only increase the Grande Prairie & District Victim Services Association’s funding by $5,000 a year over the next two years instead of $20,000.
Other referrals discussed but ultimately turned down include becoming a member of the Peace Airshed Zone Association, developing a French Marketing Fund, a pop-up shop pilot program, a parks maintenance garage in Muskoseepi Park, more flower beds, upgrades to the Nine of Diamonds campsite, sponsorship of the 2017 and 2018 Bear Creek Folk Festivals, and extra coaching programs at GPRC.
At the same time, a green light was given to several big ticket items. Among the approved initiatives is a grandstand at the Community Knowledge Campus. Given argued the debenture borrowing of $2 million for the $3.14 million project is the right move for the community.
“I believe that debenture borrowing is the appropriate source of funding for an item like this. It ensures that the item is available to the people today and will be paid for by the people who will use it over the next 20 years.”
Also moving forward is nearly a million dollars to pave 116th Avenue from 68th Avenue south the the city limits, $500,000 for traffic signals for 105th Street and 116th Avenue, and $100,000 to upgrade the RCMP detachment’s video system to digital. The city will also increase tourism funding, fund the Grande Prairie Disc Golf Association, find a solution to vandalism at South Bear Creek Park, fund a poverty reduction strategy, and purchase equipment for an RCMP call centre.
The budget will be approved on December 12th.