Chopped grant funding proposed to avoid mill rate tax increase

City staff recommended to council that the cap for Community Enhancement Grants (CEG) last Monday night at council

To avoid a preliminary property tax mill rate increase in 2016 for Prince Rupert taxpayers, City of Prince Rupert chief financial officer Corinne Bomben and City staff recommended to council that the cap for Community Enhancement Grants (CEG) last Monday night at council.

The cap for the grants is set for $850,000 for 2016 in a period where the total amount requested by applicants amounted to $1.125 million, with $86,000 of that coming from brand new applicants, such as Grad Parents Committee 2016, North Coast Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society, Pricne Rupert Harley Riders, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Prince Rupert Marine Rescue and Transition Prince Rupert.

City staff recommended that no new applicants be considered given the fiscal constraints of the city.

The recommendation to enforce a stricter cap in 2016 met with mostly favourable reviews from mayor and council, with a couple reservations from Coun. Nelson Kinney and Coun. Joy Thorkelson, who warned council that cutting these community services’ CEG funding may have a backlash to the community.

“Our city is going to see some changes made if we don’t help a couple of these organizations out and we don’t want to lose them. I say be very careful,” said Kinney.

“I think it’s disgraceful,” added Thorkelson.

“We cut organizations’ funding by $36,000 to make up for decisions we made in the past … and then we wonder why our town isn’t as attractive when our services go down,” she said.

Coun. Gurvinder Randhawa said that Prince Rupert taxpayers already pay high taxes anad are especially feeling the pinch with the Canfisco salmon canning layoffs, so a CEG cap is a positive alternative.

Coun. Blair Mirau added a motion to have staff evaluate future applications based on the criteria of frequency of use by community members, diversity of services provided, overall value to the community as a whole, diversity of services provided, overall value to the community as a whole and the consideration of having the lowest possible impact on service levels.

“I think it’s been very clear the direction we’re taking,” Mirau said.

“We don’t want to continue the pattern of year-over-year tax increases. This is an option that’s presented to us to cap the grants.”

“However I don’t think we want to get in the business of going line item by line item, I think we want to set clear and concise policy and good direction for staff,” he said.