Option debated to stop tax hike

Chris Clegg
South Peace News
Taking money from savings so municipal taxes will not increase in High Prairie this year, is the final option council is considering before passing its tax levy bylaw.

Council met April 25 and decided to explore the option instead of implementing a modest 2.78 per cent increase for municipal and businesses.
Treasurer Terri Wiebe was directed to bring back proposals to a special meeting May 2 to pass the bylaw.

Councillor Brian Panasiuk was ready to pass the increase as presented.

“We’ve been through the budget seven times,” he said. “It’s gone up slightly which is too bad but we have to move ahead.”

Mayor Linda Cox agreed, but suggested council could take money from reserves and/or last year’s surplus to cover the increase.

“The people in the town are hurting. I don’t even want a $50 increase.”

She added she especially wanted no increase in business tax.

“I don’t think our commercial rate is business friendly.”

Wiebe pointed out the obvious.

“We have to cover the carbon tax somehow.”

“I don’t see a way around it,” said Councillor Michael Long. “The increase is slight. We have to cover it somehow.
“Everybody that I’ve talked to…there isn’t a business out there [that doesn’t say] our taxes aren’t high,” Long added.

“I don’t want to see higher taxes but taking from our savings account each year does cause problems,” said Panasiuk. “I think we’re better off keeping money in our savings.”

Cox argued money is put aside for a rainy day, and that day has arrived.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable at this time to help some of our businesses.”

“I do agree…our taxes are huge,” said Councillor Arlen Quartly, adding he was also concerned about having no tax increase, then a huge one in two years. Still, he leaned toward no increase.
“They just don’t want to see an increase. For this year, it’s a good show. Any increase is what they can’t take right now.”

Councillor Donna Deynaka was also concerned about the future.

“We do it now but what happens next year?”

Councillor Brian Gilroy suggested council examine how it allocates money in the future if it wants to keep taxes stable. He suggested if people want to keep taxes the same, they should be prepared to receive less money in grants and sponsorship.

Final budget debate will be held [May 2] in council chambers at 7 p.m.

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