Surplus and small tax increase in 2018 budget

Members of Prince Albert City Council debate a motion during budget meetings on Friday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Citizens of Prince Albert can look forward to a small bump in their property taxes after city council wrapped up budget discussions on Saturday.

After the dust had settled, council tentatively approved a 1.53 per cent tax increase, along with a $193,000 surplus. Final approval will come at a formal council meeting in December.

Mayor Greg Dionne said he was pleased with the final budget in what was a difficult budget year.

“I was happy at two per cent, but 1.5, that’s great savings for our taxpayers,” he said.

Although Dionne was pleased with the final numbers, the process required some finesse. Prince Albert City Council turned down nearly all funding requests from city departments and external agencies.

City councillors also found little support when trying to add additional projects to the list. There were 18 operating budget issues and 25 capital budget projects that were not included in the original proposal. City council voted to include four of them in the 2018 budget, and only one item, a $3,000 purchase of pool wheelchairs for Kinsmen Water Park, passed unanimously.

Prince Albert’s external agencies like the SPCA and Community Service Centre also felt the pinch. All agencies were told not to expect any funding increases this year, and those that did ask for more money were refused.

The city police budget also took a small cut, as councillors voted to send the proposed plan back to the police commission to trim another $200,000.

Dionne said Prince Albert’s tax rates were already too high compared to other Saskatchewan cities, and with the decrease in funding from the provincial government the city had to cut back on spending. However, he’s hopeful next year, with a new premier in charge, things will be different.

“We are hopeful that whoever gets elected premier of the province will go back to the grass roots and talk to us and see if we can all move forward,” he said.

More to come.