As budget season approaches, City of Grande Prairie Council is opening discussions around feasible options for how to proceed into 2021. Mayor Bill Given says he wanted to emphasize the fact that discussions are in the early stages and a final decision is far from being made.

“I think the most important thing for the public to know is that consultation on the budget is still ongoing,” he says. “[City administration] identified they would be presenting a budget that would have a 1.5 per cent [tax] increase, and they will also provide options for council to achieve a zero per cent increase.”

City administration has been tasked with developing a budget that was reflective of the rate of ecopnomic inflation in Grande Prairie. Given adds that the public will have plenty of opportunities to engage with council regarding their views on the developing budget scenario. This will include an online portal for residents to observe what city expenses regularly look like.

Describing them as “fun” tools to simulate municipal expenditures, Given hopes that through the availability of the portal, locals can develop a better understanding of just how challenging it can be to reduce spending.

“I hope that these types of tools help people better understand what the core costs are that the city faces and how so many of those costs are pretty fixed and very challenging to reduce, or, how they are at least ones that most members of the public wouldn’t want us to reduce,” he says.

“When people see those numbers and start to see how little wiggle room there really is I think helps build a greater understanding.”

Given says he commends the work done so far for its adherence to modest increases that are “responsive to the times,” won’t break the bank for the average resident.

“The direction that council had given previously was for administration to bring in something that was reflective of the rate of inflation. Certainly, products that the city consumes and the cost of labour does continue to march forward and so we do have to account for inflation.”

“This number that administration expects to present at 1.5 per cent is well below the rate of inflation.”

Budget discussions will formally hit the council table in November. Council’s online engagement portal is available through the city website.