Council hits 2 percent mark, approves arts centre study, bear project, Todd upgrade
NEWS/ CITY HALL — City taxpayers will face a two-percent tax hike in the coming year after council waded through the last of its spending decisions at a special budget meeting today.
They didn’t cut much, but it was enough to get to the two percent mark that several councillors saw as a goal. Had they approved everything on the list, the increase would have been 2.17 per cent.
The increase doesn’t include utilities.
In addition to items ranging from a new mover to the addition of a police member to deal with domestic violence, council moved through big-ticket wants such as the Todd Road pedestrian upgrade, a new Kermode bear habitat, and studies for a new performing arts centre.
The list is somewhat deceptive, however, as the latter items will be funded from a variety of sources that don’t directly affect property taxes.
What might have been the most contentious — studies for a performing arts centre — came at the end of the three-hour meeting and was dispatched promptly with no opposition.
The $260,000 for the studies will come from gaming revenues.
Coun. Nelly Dever, who earlier had questioned whether a new arts centre is needed, said she felt the studies would bring forward the answer to that.
“I believe this study is going to bring that forth for us,” but she wondered if staff thought the project would be ready for a referendum this November.
“Is there an intent to have this completed for the November election ballot?” she asked.
Parks, recreation and culture director Byron McCorkell said it would take six months to do the studies, after which specific sites could be looked at and all the details worked out for April 2015.
Then, he said, council could decide whether to send it to a stand-alone referendum.
The Kermode bear habitat generated some discussion, with Coun. Arjun Singh opposing the City spending $250,000 toward the $750,000 project in this year’s budget.
Another $150,000 would be contributed next year.
“I’m having a hard time with this one,” he said. “I just can’t see $400,000 funded by the City for an animal.”
But Mayor Peter Milobar said the City is the steward of the wildlife park and its inhabitants.
“We have a living, breathing Kermode bear… It needs to be cared for properly.”
Council also approved $45,000 for upgrades to Cowan Street Park and a $120,000 family washroom in Riverside Park from gaming revenue.
The $725,000 Todd Road pedestrian upgrade will come from gas tax, while a $370,000 water park for Westsyde Centennial Park and $75,000 in changes to the McArthur Island Sports and Events Centre for sledge hockey will come from a 20-year-old sewer agreement reserve fund.
Council rejected $130,000 for a street nurse and $20,000 for a feasibility on an outdoor artificial skating rink.
A two percent tax hike on a $300,000 home amounts to about $32. Before the final budget is adopted, staff must bring back bylaws that reflect the directions set by the council today.
I’m with Arjun….3/4 of a million for a bear habitat for a single bear? It would be cheaper for the to buy the bear my house, and that includes the land! Whatever has happened to volunteer work parties and community fund raising. As soon as the government is paying, everything seems to cost far more than it should! And, the street nurse is a no go? She/he would serve the multitude of homeless, maligned, addicted and disenfranchised people in our city. I think they missed the boat entirely when allocating our resources that way!
On the street nurse issue, the consensus was that while a worthy item, it represents downloading. “I think we’re seeing more and more downloading,” said Coun. Marg Spina. “I don’t think we should fund nurses.” Coun. Arjun Singh felt council should “lobby rather than fund,” as in seek funding from the provincial government.
Any updates a year later on how that lobbying went?
You’re probably talking about council’s rejection of funding for a street nurse? Council just went through its wish list, or “supplemental list,” for this year’s budget and I didn’t see any mention of a street nurse, nor do I recall seeing anything during the year about any lobbying to the provincial government.