Winter Games count for half of Prince George's 4.2 per cent tax increase
About half of the potential 4.2 per cent tax hike city homeowners are facing in 2011 is earmarked for Canada Winter Games improvements.
City council on Monday wrapped up its fourth and final budget deliberation meeting as it put the finishing touches on its 2011-2015 financial plan, which will form the basis of its 2011 budget.
As it stands today, it will cost the owner of a $200,000 house an extra $64 in 2011 just to maintain services and begin putting money aside to fund the $17.4-million capital budget for the 2015 Canada Winter Games. Some $16.5 million of that is tagged for expansion of the Kin Centre arenas.
The games money will come from a special two per cent tax levy in 2011 and an additional 1.2 per cent levy in 2012. Those taxes will remain in place through 2015 on top of other routine increases.
Citing the ongoing effects of the recession, Coun. Dave Wilbur unsuccessfully proposed to hold the dedicated games levy to just 0.5 per cent in 2011, then increase it in subsequent years as the economy recovers.
"The taxpayers have had enough," said Wilbur, who found just one other ally at the council table.
"There's a lot of people on fixed incomes that are not going to be able to afford high tax increases for many years to come," agreed Coun. Brian Skakun.
Coun. Shari Green, who returned Friday from Halifax where she observed the 2011 edition of the games, insisted the levies here are a sound investment in the future.
"It's a little bit of pain now ... but it's a long-term win for our community," Green said.
To meet its $17.4 million capital budget for the games, the city is also banking on contributions from other local and senior governments totalling $7.5 million.
RCMP HOLDING CELLS
Council also voted Monday to axe safety improvements suggested for some of the holding cells at the RCMP detachment. Work on five cells designed for suicidal or intoxicated prisoners was estimated to cost $540,000 and would have only been useful for 15 months, at which time the new RCMP detachment is expected to open.
The recommendations were put forward by a B.C. coroner's inquest that investigated in-custody deaths. City staff said the problem has been addressed by providing more guards at an additional expense of about $40,000 annually, and will continue with that stop-gap measure until the new detachment opens.
A $2-million plan to convert Second and Fourth Avenues to two-way traffic will be placed as an unfunded item in the 2011 financial plan. Putting the plan on the wish list allows city staff to continue seeking grant opportunities and other funding opportunities while work on an implementation plan continues.
Meanwhile, Coun. Green had a $6.9-million proposal to rehabilitate a portion of Fourth Avenue downtown added to the 2012 financial plan as an unfunded item. The project is on the shelf while the city seeks funding from senior levels of government.
Council directed staff to look at the issue of pedestrian safety near the Rotary soccer fields. Coun. Skakun wants to investigate the possibility of building an overpass or underpass across 18th Avenue, while Coun. Cameron Stolz suggested traffic-calming measures nearby might be more appropriate.
The 2011-2015 financial plan will now be forwarded to the city's finance and audit committee, which will recommend tax rate changes required for the city to finalize its 2011 budget. The recommendations will then be sent back to council for final approval, likely at its May 9 meeting.