I failed to mention in the last post that as a reference, every $1 million dollar decision results in roughly a 1% tax increase/decrease.
Sports & Recreation
The Leisure Centre
Pool Reopening - Not Supported
I've been consistent all along in my belief that it would be
financially irresponsible to reopen the Leisure Centre pool.With the Eastlink Centre pool only operating
at 43% capacity, I don't believe there would be sufficient demand to make the
I believe that the numbers that were presented to us
validated my assumptions.To operate the
Leisure Centre pool, an operating taxpayer subsidy of $1.1 million each year
will be required which represents 67% of expenses!To put this in perspective, the Eastlink
Centre subsidy only represents 32% of expenses.
I also believe that given the high costs of retrofitting
pools, the $11 million price tag for the retrofit will only balloon from there.
However, in the end, Council voted 6-3 in favour of
reopening.It is expected to be opened
to the public in 2017.
I would like to note that without the reopening of the pool,
we could have seen no tax increases for 2015 and 2016 and reduced increases in
the following years.
There were $6.1 million in various projects that Council
could have funded to upgrade the Eastlink Centre.In the end, just under $1 million was
approved.Given this year's deficit, I
was not prepared to invest significantly in the facility.
I did support several smaller items and was pleased to see them go
Mind children's room improvements
washroom in pool area
baffles to reduce noise in aquatics area
Operationally, Council chose to not increase the $4 million
subsidy that the Eastlink Centre has been receiving.Expenses will be curtailed and increased user
revenues will put the Centre back on track.
Scoreboard - $398,000
This project would add a grandstands (with bleachers,
washrooms, changing rooms) and a scoreboard to the artificial turf fields at
Charles Spencer school.Council felt
that this project could be cost shared with private donors, but there was
debate as to what that amount should be.
I was comfortable with us funding 70% of the projects.Once the votes were cast, $2 million was
decided on for the grandstands in 2016.I did not vote for this amount.
$200,000 was decided on for the scoreboard in 2015 which I
Plug: we are currently looking for Corporate/Private
donations to fund the rest of these projects!
There has been strong pressure put on the City by the
Province to partner with school boards to fund recreational facilities that are
attached to new schools.I am supportive
of these types of partnerships when there is a community need for a
facility.However, when there is no
identified need, I think that it is an unfair expectation to have us partner
with every new school that comes online (and with GP's growth...that can add
Therefore, I made the motion that we honour our commitment
to the Catholic School District to partner with them for $1 million, but that
we not include the other unallocated $1 million.The motion passed 6-3.
Community Group Funding
I like to break community group funding into four areas:
FCSS, Culture & Heritage, Recreation & Sport, and the Library.Grande Prairie is very fortunate to have so
many community groups that enhance our quality of life in so many ways.I was very pleased to support
many of the groups who applied.
However, I did raise some concerns with our overall spending
amounts.Community group funding for
2015 was increased by 26%, or almost $1 million (now at $4.8 million).This will increase at around 5% each year
after meaning that approximately $17.4 million will be given to community
groups over the next four years.I felt
that the increase in this budget line was too great and I made some difficult
decisions as a result.
FCSS (Family &
Community Support Services)
I was very pleased to support 16 different local agencies
who provide such valuable services to our community:
John Howard Society
Big Brothers Big Sisters
Catholic Family Services
Cool Aid Society
HIV North Society
Suicide Prevention Resource Centre
GP & Area Council on Aging
Volunteer Services Bureau
Circle of Life
Pregnant & Parenting Teens
GP Council for Lifelong Learning
The FCSS program was established by the Province a number of
years ago to support a variety of community groups based on social needs in the
community.The program was established with
a 80/20 funding split meaning the Province would fund 80% while municipalities
Over the years, some municipalities have chosen to spend
over and above the 20% as is the case in Grande Prairie.In 2014, our share represented 43% to the
Province's 57%.With the increases this
year, we've moved our share to 50% in 2015.In
comparison, cities double our size, like Red Deer and Lethbridge, have remained
at the 20% share level.
One of the constraints that the Province has put on
municipalities is that they have not increased FCSS funding since 2009...it has
remained flatlined.I believe this is
shameful on behalf of the Province.With
the Province's plethora of revenue generating abilities, I believe it is
contingent upon them to assist in these valuable programs.If they insist on having municipalities fund
these programs, they should relinquish some of the revenue generating tools
they have to the municipalities.
As this doesn't appear to be happening any time soon, I
think we should be more prudent with our spending in this area so that there is
greater pressure on the Province to act.As such, I made the motion to increase FCSS funding by 5% this year, an
amount that I felt represented an increase in line with inflation and
population growth.The motion did not
pass.FCSS funding in 2015 will now be
$1.2 million representing a 63% increase.
I supported the Library's request for a 5% increase in
funding which I thought was reasonable.
I was very pleased to support a number of our culture and
heritage groups which add so much to our city's vibrancy!
Centre for Creative Arts
GP Boys’ Choir
GP International Street Performers Festival
GP Live Theatre
GP Performing Arts Guild
Prairie Gallery Society
South Peace Regional Archives Society
Reel Shorts Festival
Peace Regional Independent Media Arts
There was one concern I had within this budget.The Art Gallery asked for an increase of
funding of 39% this year bringing its total to $286,000.The reason for the large increase was a
significant drop in provincial grant money.I again felt that this was another area in which we couldn't let the
Province off the hook by filling in the gap they left.As such, I proposed a more modest increase
which did not pass.
This area saw the following organizations funded:
Wolverine Wheelchair Sports Association
Canadian Paraplegic Association (Alberta)
Peace Wapiti Speed Skating
Wapiti Striders Track Club o/a Wolves
GP Sports Council
This budget area saw a major increase in funding this year (183%).This was largely due to some significant
requests from the Nitehawk Ski Hill.
Nitehawk was asking for $50,000/year in operational funding
and $300,000 for capital purchases split over two years.In the past, Nitehawk has received funding
from the MD of Greenview (which it is located in), from the County, and the
City based on a 50/25/25 cost share.This was also the request this year.
I really struggled with this one.Nitehawk provides such an incredible
recreational option in our region and is well used by City residents.However, I wrestled with whether the City
should be providing funding to the society.
My hesitation to fund Nitehawk is based on two reasons:
1. The MD of
Greenview could easily fund the entire operation.
The MD of Greenview (pop. 5000) receives $65 million in
bonus money each year mostly from the oil and gas sector.The City receives $1 million by comparison.The MD has so much money coming in, it
literally cannot spend it all and ends up saving it (they have $90 million in
reserves) or giving it away to other municipalities like Valleyview, Fox Creek,
and Grande Cache ($6 million/year).
My belief is that since the MD overwhelmingly has the financial
capacity to assist, it should be responsible for helping Nitehawk along.
2. The City has
limited dollars to spend and must make tough decisions as to which recreational
options it funds.
I'm in favour of providing public dollars to support
recreational options that will encourage the health and wellness of our
population.To that end, I support
putting money into programs which are lower cost and can be accessed by a wide
range of people.This is why I am so
passionate about our parks and trails.They are relatively inexpensive to operate and can be freely accessed by
the young, old, rich and poor in any season of the year.
While ski hills do provide great recreational opportunities,
they are not very accessible to a wide range of users.There is the transportation to get to the
hill and then there is the high cost of participating that makes downhill
skiing not accessible to many people.I
would rather see that money spent in areas which provide more value to a
greater number of residents.
With these reasons in mind, I moved that this item be
unfunded.The motion was defeated.
Addition of 12
Officers - Supported
Very pleased to support the addition of 12 new officers over
the next four years.Our 80 current
officers have very high caseloads and the addition of new officers is sorely
Montrose Greenway project - Not Supported
This project would create a greenway with trees, benches, fountain, etc. on the south side of the Montrose Cultural Centre.
While I'm in support of landscaping this area, my lack of support for this project was based on timing. First, with all the other constraints we have on us, this was not a priority for me right now.Second, we are currently working on a plan for what we want to see on the entire Montrose site. I thought that funding the previously designed greenway was premature as it may not fit into our overall vision for the site.
The project will proceed in 2016 however based on the 5-4 vote in favour.
Streetscape Upgrades - Supported
One of Council's focuses in our Strategic Plan was a
commitment to build up and enhance our core.One of the limiting factors to growth in the downtown is that our water
and wastewater infrastructure is so old...some of it dating back to the
1930s.There are a number of
developments that we could not physically support because of inadequate
If you make the decision to tear up roads to fix the stuff
underneath, it gives you the opportunity to redesign the stuff on the surface
when it's all put back together.As
such, we have an opportunity to completely reimagine the downtown core and it
excites me to see what the community can come up with!
We engaged a consultant to give us an estimate of what a
rehabilitation and redesign of this magnitude would cost.The results came in showing that we're
looking at a $100 million project. Ouch. But how do you eat an elephant?
Council has made the decision to invest in this project
block by block.We will be putting $5
million towards the project each year, for the next four years at least.
I was a supporter of this project as I see a lot of
potential for downtown. Revitalization efforts in other communities have
livened up the core of the city and provided ample opportunities for economic
development.I can't wait to see the end
And there you have it!My decisions for Budget 2015-2018. There were a number of other items discussed, so if you'd like to know where I stood on those, just let me know. I don't know if it's reached the "cheesy" level yet, but here it goes anyway: