Grande Prairie residential property owners could be looking at a 1.25 per cent property tax increase in 2020. The number represents an average increase of roughly $37.87 each next year.
This week’s three-day budget deliberation process began with Grande Prairie city council aiming for a maximum of a 1.5 per cent increase and ended up below that due to a number of cuts and referrals.
“Council went through a significantly different budget discussion this year than in years previous,” says Mayor Bill Given. “Obviously we were facing the challenge of the impact of some decisions of the provincial and federal governments that were affecting our budget.”
Councillors carved roughly $6 million out of what was initially presented to them by staff, with some of the larger potential adjustments coming in the form of $321,000 taken from management and programming at the Eastlink Centre to better line up staffing for the number of patrons in the building.
As well, they looked at possibly cutting $500,000 from Grande Prairie Transit, which would 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.
Councillors also 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.
Given says the decisions made throughout the week became more difficult, but they were ultimately made with two specific trains of thought, which he believes was shared by councillors across the board.
“Council had also put a significant amount of focus on ensuring we had a below inflationary tax rate, and ultimately that meant council had to make some challenging decisions between the levels of service that have been delivered previously in the community and the desire for a lower tax rate.”
He adds he is happy to see the teamwork shown by members of city council throughout the three-day deliberations
“I would hope that council members would reflect as you go through the budget discussions and debate on individual items you win some and lose some, but the budget as a whole is a reflection of the will of council. We are a collective body that makes decisions together and you have to be willing to accept that you are not always on the winning side of votes, but in the end, the budget that is developed is our budget, and we should all be able to stand behind it.”
Councillors could vote to approve the budget at the upcoming meeting on November 18th.