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Zero per cent tax increase? Council can do it

It should be a no-brainer. But it’s not.

City council has the ability Monday to give Prince George taxpayers something they haven’t had in a generation. A zero per cent tax increase. They can do that … or not.

Surprisingly, council seems split on whether to use provincial Safe Restart Fund dollars to hold the line on a tax increase this year.

To put things in perspective, the last time the city brought in a zero per cent tax increase was … well, no one knows.

Councillors Brian Skakun, Terri McConnachie, and Kyle Sampson are all for dipping in to the $6.1 million pot of cash to lessen the tax hit during these pandemic times. Finance Committee chair Garth Frizzell and Mayor Lyn Hall aren’t so sure. The rationale is that the city will still be feeling the effects of COVID-19 past 2021 and, in fact, things might get worse, financially, for the city.

Nothing wrong with being cautious.

Here’s the kicker. The city only needs to use about half of the $6.1 million in free provincial funds to hold the line on taxes this year. It could do that and still have some money left over in the kitty for next year. Or, egads, it could use it all and actually lower taxes … baby steps, baby steps. Zero per cent would  be awesome.

The provincial Safe Restart Fund is money specifically designated to help communities deal with the impacts of COVID-19 and, yes, it can be used to help balance the books.

City revenues have been off to the tune of about $1 million a month, thanks to the pandemic. So yes, it’s bad. And yes, it could get worse. But, council has the ability to lessen the blow to taxpayers who are also hurting this year. It should do so.

The Safe Restart Fund is a rainy day fund for the city. It’s been pouring on city taxpayers for a good long time. Time for council to open the umbrella.  

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