Council likely to approve operating budget with no tax rate increase from last year

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Fort St. John City Council is likely to approve the 2017 Draft Operating Budget that was presented to council today.

At a Committee of the Whole meeting today, City Manager Dianne Hunter gave council a presentation of a second iteration of the City’s Operating Budget for this year. At last week’s Committee of the Whole Meeting, Council asked staff to look at working on a budget that would work with the City not raising the tax rate from 2016. Hunter said during this afternoon’s meeting that staff were able to tweak the scope of various budget items, and were able to trim roughly $200,000 off the city’s cost of doing business this year.

The City is facing a less than ideal year ahead, with property assessment values dropping from last year due to a downturn in the local economy. That in turn generally means lower property taxes for property owners, and less money in city coffers. In addition, the city is also seeing an estimated loss of $250,000 from gaming revenue. This means that the City is facing a budget deficit of $1,173,253.

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Hunter says however that council could allow City staff to not follow tradition by not putting aside $1,000,000 towards the City’s infrastructure reserve this year. When it comes to the additional $173,253, Hunter said that Fort St. John is getting paid the full amount of this year’s contract to provide fire dispatch services north of the Peace River, despite a vote by the PRRD two weeks ago to move dispatching to Vancouver Island in October. Hunter says that that amount totals roughly $60,000 to $70,000, which wasn’t included in the operating budget. She added that the budget is also drawn up with a worst case scenario in mind, meaning that some expense amounts in the draft budget will likely end up costing the city less, depending on circumstances. City staff will also be looking at ways to trim costs without reducing services.

All members of Council were present at today’s meeting, and all members seemed unanimously in favour of passing the draft operating budget at an upcoming meeting.

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