Council to consider 2% tax hike for 2021

A two per cent tax increase will be on the table when city council meets next week to debate the city's 2021 budget.

The biggest driver of that is a proposed $1.5 million increase to the city's $8.5 million snow control budget, according to a report going before council on Monday.

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Between 2017 and 2020, the city's spending on snow control exceeded the allocated budget every year – coming in just under $10 million in 2018 and 2019, and just over $10 million in 2020.

In 2017 and 2018, the city allocated roughly $7 million for snow control, in 2019 and 2020 it was increased to $8.5 million.

Other proposed increases to the 2021 budget include a $486,442 increase to the city's general levy, an additional $150,000 for road rehabilitation and an additional $125,000 for the city's General Infrastructure Reinvestment Fund.

Overall, the city is looking at a $2.26 million increase over the 2020 tax levy, which totalled $113.07 million.

However, last year the city received $6.11 million in funding through the province's COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant for Local Governments. That funding could be used to offset some or all of the proposed tax increase.

In December, the city's finance and audit committee recommended using a portion of the funds to reduce the proposed tax increase to two per cent.

Initially, that was anticipated to use $1.33 million of the fund, but in the report going before city council on Monday that number was reduced to $796,185 – leaving $5.31 million available for future uses.

If city council were to vote to eliminate the tax increase, it would require using nearly $3.06 million, leaving approximately the same amount of money available for future use.

In an interview earlier this week, Coun. Brian Skakun said he'd like to see no tax increase this year.

Once city council approve the city budget and total tax requisition next week, city staff will prepare the city's Tax Rate Bylaw. That bylaw, which will set the tax rates for all property classes, must be approved by city council before May 15.

In 2020, the city's portion of the property taxes on an average Prince George home, worth $318,461, were $2,261 – plus an additional $1,121 collected for other levels of government.

Residents can provide feedback to city council about the budget until noon on Monday. (See story)

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