Dionne works to sell another tax increase

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Mayor Greg Dionne speaks at the Prince Albert and District Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the City Address at the Travelodge on Thursday. 

For the avid Daily Herald reader, Mayor Greg Dionne’s State of the City Address didn’t unveil anything new, but it did provide some early budget insights

 

For the avid Daily Herald reader, Mayor Greg Dionne’s State of the City Address didn’t unveil anything new, but it did provide some early budget insights

“Will there be a tax increase? There will be,” Dionne told a large crowd at the Travelodge on Thursday in answering a question posed by an audience member. “It will be as small as possible.”

With the price of gas going up alongside SaskEnergy and SaskPower rates, outside forces are acting against the city’s budgetary process, Dionne added.

“Unfortunately, all of our four unions are up for bargaining this year, so they will be looking for a cost of living increase.”

Dionne began bracing the public for a tax increase at the beginning of his address by outlining last year’s significant increase, which saw city coffers swell an additional $4 million over the previous year’s budget.

“I believe that it’s really important to tell the taxpayer what we spent the money on, and how we spent their money,” Dionne explained to media after his presentation.

Although the public was at first “bitter” with a new residential base tax of $189 and a larger, varying rate for commercial properties, Dionne said that “once they saw all the streets that were done it turned into a positive.”

By winter, civic crews had paved 80 city blocks in 2013, spending 99 per cent of the city’s $4 million asphalt paving budget, which was almost double the previous year’s effort.

This, Dionne said, was the “proudest moment” during his first year as mayor.

Listing other accomplishments from 2013, Dionne framed things by pulling aside a comparatively small project -- downtown sidewalk repairs -- to exemplify how the city is “spending our money wiser.”

Instead of replacing paving stones with new paving stones, city crews are pouring painted concrete that is stamped in the shape of paving stones -- a method he said will “last 20 years longer than paving stone.”

This year will be “one of our busier years because we’re taking on even more projects,” Dionne said, listing a handful of previously discussed budget items.

Although formal budget meetings have yet to take place in a public forum, Dionne noted that about eight or so private meetings have been held between council and city administration to look at the status quo budget.

With Jim Toye starting work as city manager on Jan. 1, Dionne said that the city is ready to finalize its budget some time in March.

Will there be a tax increase? There will be. It will be as small as possible. Greg Dionne

Although he didn’t make any major budgetary announcements on Thursday, Dionne suggested that council might consider a new reserve fund in order to save up for a new WHL hockey arena, curling rink or swimming pool.

“Of course, everyone wants theirs first,” Dionne said, adding that his preference would be a new leisure park, since the city’s existing pools are aging.

“One day one of them is going to go down in the near future, and the one just does not have the capacity,” he said of the pools.

All options will be looked at in building such facilities, Dionne said, noting that public-private partnerships (P3s) are a potential.

In whatever form these facilities are eventually built, Dionne clarified that it’ll be some time before any of them are built. The E.A. Rawlinson Centre and the Alfred Jenkins Field House took about six years apiece between conception to construction -- A reserve fund would be the first step.

The public has yet to see anything on paper with regard to the city’s 2014 budget -- something that will not be repeated next year, Dionne said, noting that next year’s budget will be finalized by the beginning of the year.

Right now, the city is “authorizing expenditures pre-budget,” Dionne told media after his address.

The mayor reasoned that if the city has the budget finalized by Jan. 1, they’re ahead of the game.

“That’s when the corporations have it done … If we approve it in March, we’ve already lost a quarter of the year that our staff could be working on the project that we want done.”

At this time last year, the Daily Herald reported on budgetary practices employed at the City of Penticton, in response to Coun. Rick Orr’s public suggestion that the British Columbia city set a good example for Prince Albert to follow.

Penticton Mayor Dan Ashton told the Herald that their budget is set in stone before Christmas each year.

"We actually get better pricing, now," Ashton told the Herald at the time.

"When other municipalities are putting out their bid rosters for the coming year in May -- that's a busy time for construction companies, etc -- and now we're able to get better pricing.”

Organizations: Travelodge, E.A. Rawlinson Centre, Alfred Jenkins Field House Daily Herald Prince Albert

Geographic location: Penticton, British Columbia

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  • PA Guy
    January 17, 2014 - 12:27

    There were a lot of mistruths in his speech. He said Carrier Lumber was not laying anyone off. He said that all of the loss of businesses in PA was from construction companies working on temporary construction projects. 50 businesses were contractors? Come on!!