Grande Prairie city council spent last week trying find ways to improve how they budget. It was the first strategic planning session for the group elected last fall, held this year in Jasper.
It was also the first ever session for Dylan Bressey, who says council wants to more efficiently use the city’s resources to give the best service possible.
“We’re also working hard to catalog everything that the city owns and what’s maintenance fees going forward, we’re looking at how we’re funding community groups, we’re reviewing all of our user fees across the organization, and we’re working hard to figure out how we’re using resources right now and how was can best maximize their impact.”
The city has moved to a Priority Based Budgeting approach, which is intended to make sure that the city’s operations are more in line with what the community wants. Bressey says he ultimately wants to improve services without upping taxes.
“I think people rightly expect the services we’re giving them; I think that we do give exceptional services here in Grande Prairie, but it’s coming at the cost of a high tax bill and I think we can find ways to maintain those services without increasing that tax burden.”
When looking at what the priorities of residents are, council came up with service, safety, the economy, infrastructure, and governance. Mayor Bill Given says city staff are now working on a document that describes what will be considered success in those areas.
“Ultimately that tool that council will approve will be what our management team measures all of the different city programs against and ultimately scores them and then allocates budget resources to them.”
Council will also be evaluating decisions by looking at their social, fiscal, and environmental impacts. With this year’s budget already laid out, the new process will largely be used starting with the fall 2018 budget talks.
“Over time, the city services will be more effective and will be more aligned with the things that people are concerned about in the community,” Given explains. “The ultimate goal is to ensure that we’re operating as efficiently as possible and to try to have some sort of impact on the demand for property tax resources.”
City council’s time in Jasper also included a meeting with the municipality’s council. Given says their discussions surrounded Highway 40 and Grande Prairie Regional College, which has a learning centre where a culinary arts program may be developed.