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Yu calls budget increase ‘reasonable’ given challenges city faces

Mayor Simon Yu

Prince George Mayor Simon Yu says the recent city budget, containing a 7.58 per cent tax increase, is a compromise budget.

“This is a reasonable compromise budget when you consider the challenges we face as a city,” said Mayor Simon Yu. “Residents told us through Citizen Budget that they wanted to increase certain services.”

A representative home in Prince George valued at $410,000 will see an increase of roughly $175 this year (or $14.50 per month) over the previous year’s bill.

An overview of city finances presented to council cites higher-than-normal inflationary pressures are having an impact on the municipal budget. Surges in material and fuel prices impacting the city fleet, costs tied to the city’s contract with the RCMP, the opening of the Canfor Leisure Pool, and price hikes in third-party contracted services are major contributors to spikes in expenses.

Prince George’s substantial geographic footprint and the corresponding need to maintain aging infrastructure intended for a far larger community also present perennial financial challenges to the City budget.

Notable amendments approved by Council during the meeting include:

  • Approving two police protection proposals that increase the number of RCMP positions in the city by four and bring in two additional support municipal employees for a total of $1,020,646.
  • Reducing snow removal expenses in the 2023 budget by $600,000 and using the amount to offset this year’s levy.
  • Allocating part of the Safe Restart Fund to pay for the Fire and Rescue Services enhancement of $100,000 meant for a feasibility study aimed at establishing a local training centre for firefighters. The remainder of the Safe Restart funds will go towards RCMP retroactive payouts.
  • Shifting the development of new off-leash dog parks in Prince George out of the capital plan’s unfunded section to funded (with a $25,000 budget) with the intent to finance the initiatives through the Northern Capital and Planning Grant Reserve Fund.

The 2023 levy marks the second time the city has introduced a rate since 2021, when council instituted a zero per cent tax levy in response to economic challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. To achieve that, the city used Safe Restart Grant funding to cover the year’s proposed increase. The 2022 levy was also more than halved from 6.55 per cent to three per cent after administration reduced capital projects and service costs to save $807,000.

According to the city’s annual Citizen Budget survey taken last October, most respondents expressed satisfaction with current service levels and wished to maintain the status quo. A majority were also in favour of increasing funding to police services, roads and sidewalks, snow and ice control, and community planning and infrastructure by five per cent.

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