The City of Yellowknife’s budget is all set for 2023 with the property tax increase whittled down to 4.37 per cent for both residential and commercial properties.
All that has to happen now is for council to pass it, which shouldn’t be too much trouble considering councillors were the ones getting it all done.
Budget deliberations wrapped up at city hall on Tuesday evening with council and Mayor Rebecca Alty going through the entire budget document in short order, at least in bureaucratic terms.
The proposed property tax increase going into budget talks was 7.47 per cent. The reduction came courtesy of council agreeing to deleting items, deferring items or increasing fees elsewhere to make up the difference.
Alty called the calculations “pretty impressive” as things wound up for the evening on Tuesday.
For example, one deleted item was the proposed arts co-ordinator for the city. The city had budgeted $109,000 for that position, but Coun. Tom McLennan put forth a motion to scrap it for now, which was passed. That position was part of an arts and culture master plan passed by the previous council.
McLennan’s reasoning? He said capital projects should take priority and that the arts co-ordinator position isn’t needed right now.
Instead, he said existing resources should be used to implement the plan, along with taking $20,000 of the salary savings and put that toward arts programming at the new visitors’ centre at Centre Square Mall.
One of the charges that will be increasing is the medical response fee the city charges whenever someone needs an ambulance ride. As it stands, a Yellowknife resident is charged $225 for transport, NWT residents get billed $350 and out-of-territory residents are charged $400.
Coun. Ryan Fequet moved that those fees should be increased by 15 per cent, noting that Hay River charges more for ambulance rides. Alty supported the motion, saying that since the last fee increase — in 2019 — costs for ambulance services have gone up.
Fequet said increasing those fees could add an estimated $300,000 to the city’s bank account and that alone would shave one per cent off of the tax increase. It passed unanimously.
Two new dispatch positions have been deferred, while a proposed amphitheatre cover for Somba K’e Park, priced at $75,000, was axed altogether. A proposed firesmarting bill of $100,000 was also taken off the table; Alty said that item could be done away with because of some new funding coming from the federal government. That money will come from a $20-million announcement that Ottawa made in September, designed to help protect communities in the NWT against wildfires.
While the work of figuring out how to spend the money has been made, nothing is official until city council approves the budget document itself. That is scheduled to happen this coming Monday at the next council meeting.