In what seems to be an annual ritual now, the City of Prince Rupert is once again looking at a slight increase to property taxes this spring.
At an open house on Wednesday, the City outlined some of the challenges it faces these days with a declining tax base to collect taxes from and a less than robut local business and industrial climate which continues to put most of the tax pressure on that residential base.
The Northern View provided a snapshot of some of the concerns of the city as they outlined their 2009 budget and five year plan to local residents.
With revenues on the decline in the city, some budget paring was required to keep tax increases to as low a number as possible, which in this case will be an anticipated 3.8 per cent increase. Without some of the suggested cuts to services outlined on Wednesday, the total tax increase for 2009 could have been 11.9 per cent, a number which the city more than likely suspects (and probably rightly so) wouldn't be universally welcomed by a tax weary public.
Some of the suggested reductions include a decrease of 350,000 dollars from Parks and Roads, most of which will come from reductions in landsape issues on boulevards, trails and fields. Also the rough nature of some of Prince Rupert's roads may continue as the road repairs budge faces a 120,000 dollar reduction.
Sidewalk maintenance and street sweeping will also see a reduced emphasis this year. The contentious banner program from last year will not apparently be a high profile endeavour this year and Civic Pride will have to rely more and more on their own devices to take on their projects.
Community Groups will have to seek out funding from other options this year as the city plans on reducing the amount of grants it provides to local organizations by at least 216,250 dollars in 2009.
And while the city cuts back in some areas, they are also increasing spending in others. Capital purchases will increase by 158,000 dollars while Capital works projects (such as the Hays Creek Sewer Main, Duncan Road, Spirit Square and other high profile infrastructure plans) will increase by 5.2 million dollars.
The anticipated tax rate of 3.8 per cent will increase the tax bill in July by roughly 52 dollars, based on the average price of a house in the city pegged at 168,702 dollars. For some it may be higher, for others a shade lower.
City Employees it would appear will remain safe from any major cutbacks, as no suggestions on layoffs were presented to the public at the open house, though some positions apparently won't be filled over the summer.
In fact job seekers will want to keep their eyes on the City Hall job postings boards as there are plans to increase one civilian staff member to the RCMP detachment as well as provide one staff position in the Engineering department.
The city will review the recommendations at their April 27th meeting, they must pass the budget requirements by May 15th.
The City website has a number of documents posted to outline the five year plan and its impact on the city's financial picture.