The City of Prince George is seeking voter approval to borrow $2.7 million dollars to replace some of the city’s existing equipment and purchase new light-duty trucks and tents for the fire department.
According to a report that went before city council on Feb. 6, borrowing the money from the Municipal Finance Authority at 4.77 per cent interest would increase the city’s annual debt payments by $341,407 – equivalent to a 0.29 per cent tax increase in 2024. The money would be borrowed for a period of up to 15 years.
On Feb. 6, city council approved using the Alternative Approval Process to obtain elector assent to borrow the money.
“Personally, I am not a huge fan of the alternative approval process,” Coun. Tim Bennett said. “(But) going ahead with the Alternative Approval Process is a much better use of taxpayer dollars and staff resources, then going to a referendum process.”
According to the city staff report, it cost the city $91,000 to hold the 2017 referendum to obtain voter approval to borrow money to build the Canfor Leisure Pool and new fire hall. Given how much costs have risen since 2017, Bennett said, it’s likely a referendum would cost even more today.
“Is there a better way to do this, if we planned ahead and saved in advance?” Coun. Trudy Klassen asked.
Klassen agreed with Bennett that she personally doesn’t like the Alternative Approval Process, but holding a referendum every year to finance routine equipment replacements isn’t ideal either.
City director of finance Kris Dalio said the city could create an equipment replacement levy to fund the purchases through taxation rather than borrowing the money. However, he added, the city receives “very, very favourable rates” from the Municipal Finance Authority.
“A lot of people think debt is a bad word, but debt financing is a very realistic, very important component of how we fund our capital programs,” Dalio said. “While I understand this process is may be a bit awkward sometimes, I still very much support the debt financing or lease program.”
The loan would finance replacing nearly $2.4 million in mobile equipment replacements, a driveable hoist for the city’s lube bay at $65,000 and $30,000 to replace floor scrubbers for the city’s janitorial staff. In addition, the loan would finance the purchase of two new light-duty 4x4 pickup trucks for the Prince George Fire Rescue Service’s emergency services staff and training captain at $85,000 each, and the purchase of “two military style inflatable tents, complete with dividers and bladders for anchors” for the fire department at $51,000. The tent purchase would also include a portable diesel heater for the tents.
Under the Alternative Approval Process, electors who are in favour of the city borrowing the money don’t need to do anything.
Voters who want to see the issue taken to a referendum can fill out an Elector Response Form and submit it to the city by 5 p.m. on March 30. If 10 per cent of the electorate – 5,594 electors or more - file a valid Elector Response Form by the deadline, the city will be legally obligated to hold a referendum to seek voter approval to borrow the money.
In order to sign a form, you must be an eligible voter in the City of Prince George. Forms can be obtained online, or in person at city hall.
All three pages of the form must be filled out and hand signed to be counted.
Completed forms may be returned by hand or mailed to city hall, faxed to 250-561-0183, or emailed as a PDF document attachment to email@example.com. More information on how to participate can be found online at the city’s website.
The results of the Alternative Approval Process will be reported back to city council on April 12.