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City council looking for $1.7 million in savings due to provincial budget cuts

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The recent provincial budget has left the City of Grande Prairie with a $1.7 million reduction in funding, which it says will have to be accounted for in its upcoming municipal budget. Announced as part of Finance Minister Travis Toews’ first provincial budget on October 24, MSI funding grants will be reduced by $94 million across the province in 2020-21, with a further reduction of $142 million set for 2021-2022.

It marks a nine per cent total reduction over the next two years. Mayor Bill Given says the challenge is the overall impact for the number of consecutively years the reductions are slated for.

“The province has telegraphed their intention to create a system where municipalities would share in provincial growth but at a very reduced rate. To my understanding, it will take us many, many years to get back to the same level of provincial investment in local infrastructure as we had in 2017.”

This isn’t just a concern for the City of Grande Prairie, but municipalities across the province,” he added.

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Given says city administration has known about the potential shortcomings for some time, but the concern remains in place when the money has to be made up elsewhere.

“When our council approved the 2019 budget and delivered on a 4.1 per cent reduction, we were already working to reset our budget with the public expectation in mind. This is additional pressure on top of the pressure our council had been putting forward, so it will make for a challenging budget discussion over the next three days.”

Grande Prairie city council will be meeting Wednesday through Friday to deliberate its budget for 2020. The Committee of the Whole meetings are open to the public starting at 9 a.m. each day in council chambers at City Hall.

Given says community organizations may also feel a pinch due to decisions at the provincial level. He explains community organizations that received a reduction in funding are ones that also are supported or funded by the municipality, so it could lead to increased requests for municipal funding for support.

“Ultimately, all of these different groups provide service into our community and if their revenue is reduced through one channel and not made up through another, it means those community organizations will not be able to deliver the same level of service they have in the past.”

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