Grand Forks council starts budget process for 2011

Mona Mattei
By Mona Mattei
November 8th, 2010

City council chose not to support weed control, deer committee work, or bylaw enforcement as they took their first look at next year’s budget. Grand Forks city management staff each gave an overview of current services, and the chief financial officer, Cecile Arnott, specifically addressed the projected costs of services for 2011 at the last council meeting on Nov. 1.

  Arnott advised council that they will need to look at increasing overall tax revenues by over 18 percent to meet the needs of current services and debt financing costs in the coming year. The budget presented did not include any increases to financing the needed infrastructure upgrades identified in the Kerr Wood Liedel engineering report.   “For 2011, the impact of these dollars committed really says that we need $100,000 more, roughly, on tax revenue which represents about a 4.2 percent increase,” said Arnott. “Then water fees increase by about 4.5 percent, the electrical increase is about 10 percent.” However, the need for increased tax revenues does not necessarily mean an increase to residential taxes, cautioned Arnott.   Grand Forks council was asked to tell staff what new service items to include in the budget process. Five items- weed control, bylaw enforcement officer, grant writing, regional chamber funding, deer committee costs, and carbon neutrality – were listed as potential new costs for the upcoming year.   “Every $10,000 on an average has an impact of increasing tax revenue needed by four percent,” explained Arnott. “So at our next meeting we’re going to be looking at the impact of putting in the asset management policy and plan, we’re going to talk about the KWL report and costs, and priority of other capital requirements. We’re going to talk about a funding strategy, because we’re looking at $1.5 million debt per year perhaps, which would equate to about $150,000 (cost).”   This turned into a lengthy debate lasting nearly an hour at the meeting. Each item was reviewed individually and voted in or out of future planning. Weed control ($10,000), and the bylaw officer ($80,000) were taken out of the plan for 2011.   Grant writing support for city staff ($20,000), support for the regional or local chamber of commerce at $10,000 and $15,000 for carbon neutrality activities were all supported and will be included in budget planning.   The decision on funding deer committee work was deferred until the results of the deer survey could be reviewed.   “The city has already put out a survey that almost 300 people have already responded to,” said Councillor Chris Moslin at the meeting. “The survey results will be tabulated Nov. 5 and will be shared with council as well as the deer committee and the public pretty promptly. I’d like to defer a decision on the deer management issue until we’ve had a chance to look at the public survey. Why don’t we at least have the courtesy to hear from that survey?”   Council will be hosting more public meetings about the financial plan in the next few months as they work through their budget.


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