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2021 tax rate talks to begin next week

Despite being in the middle of the 2020 property tax season, staff at Grande Prairie City Hall are already being tasked with looking at what the rates could look like in 2021. As part of the Corporate Services Committee meeting on Tuesday, members directed administration to work within a scenario that would see no more than a two per cent property tax increase next year.

Mayor Bill Given says no numbers have been set in stone.

“That motion was really just to move it forward through our council process, so all nine members of council can discuss and debate that.”

Given says discussions will likely remain in the preliminary stage, as the city is still coming to grips with the financial hit of COVID-19.

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“The city has some very significant additional costs as a result of responding to COVID, and we also have some very significant revenue reductions as a result of the pandemic.”

He adds while city administration continues to keep them updated, they are also looking at some analysis done by the Royal Bank of Canada, and the picture is fairly bleak across the board.

“Municipalities across the country are probably facing anywhere between five to 12 per cent budget implications from COVID-19. It is an important reason why ourselves, the [Alberta Urban Municipalities Association], and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities have all been advocating that the federal government needs to get involved in supporting local governments, which has really been missing up to this point.”

For the 2020 tax year, councillors approved a 1.25 per cent increase but tacked on a tax credit that, in essence, will zero that increase out in recognition of the extra financial pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic on taxpayers.

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