Approximately 1% residential tax increase proposed

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

Despite showing a $2.47 million dollar potential deficit after an initial budget proposal, using recommendations from city council, the budget has been balanced to show $55,060,054 both going out and coming in. This was managed by increasing tax revenues three per cent, transferring two per cent from fair share, not increasing staff, and moving $1.16 million from the Tax Stabilization Account. The account currently sits at approximately $2 million, and would be left with $840,000.

In 2011 the budget was higher than this year – $55,073,820 – but City Manager Dianne Hunter explains that the main difference causing the need for a three per cent tax increase is less grants.

"Last year we were able to access more grants than we have been able to this year, so there is more pressure on the taxes to make up the shortfall where grants carried us through."

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The City is looking at going ahead with four new projects, at a proposed cost of $270,000 for 2012. That includes District Energy Heating, which is a study into utilizing wasted heat from the City's recreation facilities, potentially saving $90,000-$220,000 per year. The cost in 2012 would be $100,000 in consulting fees. A Downtown Action Plan/Traffic Study would be undertaken, following the desires of citizens. Over two years the study would cost $250,000. A Market Vacancy Study is also in the works, to determine a growth strategy, and create a detailed inventory of vacant lands. Lastly, the City would start a Micro-hydro Study, to see how effluent from the city's water pumping can be used to generate electricity. This study will cost an estimated $25,000 in consulting fees for 2012, but could potentially create $40,000-$70,000 in revenue per year.

In this proposed budget, water and sewer rates would be increased to $1.00 per metre cubed. The minimum charge would be removed, and instead replaced with a monthly fixed charge of $5 each for water and sewer. A non-domestic surcharge of $2.00 per metre cubed would be implemented, and the rate for the wastewater transfer station would increase to $4.50 per metre cubed. An example average monthly bill would go from $22.74 to $42.80, or quarterly from $68.21 to $128.40.

As for taxes, the residential rate would go up from 5.0885 to 5.1665, major industries would go down from 26.4255 to 26.2408, and light industries would go up from 25.7950 to 28.8649. Business rates would go from 14.3166 to 14.7107 and recreation from 10.7248 to 10.8957.

City staff and councillors spent approximately an hour after the meeting speaking with members of the public. Their questions, ideas and concerns will be compiled and brought together for a future meeting.

The Operating Budget is expected to be adopted on March 26.

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