Prince Albert City Council has wrapped up deliberations over the 2019 city budget, settling on a 3.9 per cent property tax increase that will also see more money put into a rainy day fund for future expenses.It will be officially approved by vote later.
Local councillors finished two days of budget deliberations late Thursday afternoon, looking at the cost of everything from policing and fire to museum, arena and parks funding. Councillors opted to stick with the proposed property tax hike of 3.9 per cent – rather than a slightly lower amount – and move more than $100,000 into a fiscal stabilization fund.
Mayor Greg Dionne said the leftover cash will help offset any unforeseen expenses before the budget numbers are finalized. The City is also planning for carbon taxes next year, which have been estimated at around $132,000, he noted.
“When you have a budget of a $100 million, you’re not going to be totally accurate. Sometimes you’re out a little, and some of the unknowns of course is the carbon tax.”
Other budget items approved for 2019 is the Prince Albert Police Service budget at just over $16 million, $150,000 for playground upkeep and maintenance, funding for two pedestrian bridges at Little Red River Park, new GPS tracking units for city buses and money for a new City website.
Council also revisited an earlier suggestion from administration to raise transit fares in Prince Albert. While council voted down the proposed hike initially, transit fares for adults and post-secondary students were raised to $45 per month starting in January and $30 for seniors.
Council voted to move $300,000 from the collection of a base tax out of the paving program to help offset the tax increase.
“At the end of the day, it comes out of the same pocket,” Dionne said. “Whether it comes out of the base tax pool or out of the tax pool, it’s still the same taxpayer, and we decided to keep the general taxes down by using that money.”
Some budget requests that weren’t funded included money for an IT replacement program, the addition of an Occupational Health and Safety Officer, indoor track line painting at the Alfred Jenkins Fieldhouse, new blinds at the Arts Centre, new elevator at City Hall, a salt and sand storage building at the Municipal Service Centre, a new air conditioning unit at the fire hall and golf cart storage at the local golf course. A number of staff positions remain vacant as well, and council voted to cut one position within the fire department to save costs.
Council cleared off a few lines items while going over the 2019 numbers, deleting five accounts that haven’t been used in several years.
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