Grande Prairie city councillors could have to carve roughly $6 million out of their 2020 budget if they hope to hit their own suggested property tax increase of inflation plus 1 per cent.
To begin the deliberation process Wednesday, councillors approved in principle to a number of adjustments to funding for services including the RCMP, the Grande Prairie Fire Department, and Bylaw Enforcement Services to the tune of $1.1 million.
On top of vacant positions and eliminating the need for overtime in programs like RCMP Safe City Nights, and community policing, they are also looking at slashing $250,000 from the operating budget of the fire department, which represents just under 1.5% of the fire department’s overall budget.
The Committee of the Whole has voted in favour of keeping funding for driveway snow removal. That $350,000 annual charge allows a piece of equipment to follow residential snow plows around and remove windrows from the bottom of driveways. The full snow removal budget is currently enough for three full residential clearings for the entire winter season.
Another $321,000 could be taken from management and programming at the Eastlink Centre, specifically lining up staffing needs with the number of patrons at the facility. City staff suggest that the funding drop will also cut the number of fitness classes and programs from 70 to 60.
A total of $500,000 could also be removed from the Grande Prairie Transit budget, which will potentially impact the amount of service available to residents and riders. The cuts would reduce evening hours for a number of routes, including pick up and drop off from gathering spots like the Prairie Mall and Grande Prairie Regional College.
After Wednesday’s deliberations, council has removed $5.2 million from the 2020 budget. Council will continue to debate and deliberate the budget on Thursday. The meetings are open to the public at City Hall.