Original Published on Nov 17, 2022 at 12:35
Tough budget deliberations ahead, says Mayor Clayton
By Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
City council has set aside three days for budget deliberation this week, with a proposed three per cent tax increase on the table.
“It will be a tough budget,” said Jackie Clayton, Grande Prairie mayor.
“I think that across the province and across the country, we’re seeing communities make tough decisions.”
She said multiple discussions will be held on whether to add services and increase any capital asks, all while ensuring current service levels are maintained.
Many community groups have come to council looking for financial support that will be discussed in deliberations.
“The community has significant demands and expectations in regards to service delivery, as well continued enhancement in our community, and that, of course, all comes at a cost,” said Clayton.
“The city is experiencing a lot less growth in the tax base than we’ve seen in previous years,” said Danielle Whiteway, city chief financial officer. She noted inflation and the cost of supplies and materials are impacting costs.
Whiteway said that even though forecasted inflation this year is 6.5 per cent, it doesn’t mean all expenditures will increase that much.
“Management always tries to find ways to do things to manage a six per cent cost increase, so how can we do things differently to be able to offset some of that,” said Whiteway.
Mayor Clayton says there is always likelihood that the three per cent tax increase will be defeated in deliberations, along with a possibility of reducing capital asks.
“Nobody ever wants to see taxes increase; however, this council and previous councils have gone through a very strenuous and thorough process of being fiscally responsible,” said Clayton.
“We are a significant-sized municipality, and with that comes significant increases.”
Clayton said certain projects might need to wait.
She noted families in Grande Prairie are making the tough decision to buy groceries or pay their utility bills, or even if they can afford for a child to play a sport.
“Things like that are tough decisions that families have to make; they are also tough decisions that municipalities have to make,” she said.
Province to fight inflation
Premier Danielle Smith sent letters to multiple provincial ministers requesting they take action to ensure support for AISH and seniors benefits are adjusted for inflation. She plans to develop target inflation relief measures for families, seniors and those being hit hardest by rising costs.
The premier also wants to immediately address the cost of utility payments, including a review of Alberta electricity pricing, the province said in a news release.
Smith also released a statement to the federal government indicating she wants to see it take more action against inflation.
“With inflation surging, many Canadians are struggling to feed their families, pay their rent and utilities, and cover the cost of getting to work,” said Smith.
“Canadians need governments to take immediate action to address this affordability crisis.”
Smith says the province plans to introduce cost-saving measures for Albertans soon.