The City of Prince Rupert seems to have found itself between a rock and a hard place with this year’s budget.
The deficit still sits at around $500,000, and a solution to balance the books needs to be found and finalized by the time May 15 rolls around. At the last meeting council was presented with a number options, none of which seem appealing.
On one hand you have the prospect of raising taxes again after tax increases in almost every year in memory. This isn’t going to sit well with taxpayers who have, for the most part, seen assessments increase this year and who already complain about how much they have to pay just to live in Prince Rupert.
Frankly, Prince Rupert taxpayers have been bailing the City out for years on end and, with the spectre of a big increase coming when the new emergency services building comes, need a break.
On the other hand council could put their own employees on the hook, shutting down City Hall for an extra day to save on payroll. This would be fairly devastating to those workers, amounting to essentially a 20 per cent pay cut, would raise numerous union-related concerns and staff members would likely find a way to express their disdain. From the taxpayer perspective, though, the City could be operated as any business would be — when times are tough you have to make cutbacks to stay alive because you can only increase the cost to the consumer (taxpayer) so much.
Another option is the money could be taken out of the $1.7 million reserve. This would certainly have the least visible impact, but if a major piece of infrastructure failed between now and the next fiscal year the City could find itself in an even bigger hole than it is now.
So putting the burden on the taxpayers once again will likely lead to people facing leaner times personally, cutting the hours of City staff would impact its operations but save the taxpayer another increase, and taking from reserves leaves the City financially vulnerable at a time when Mayor Jack Mussallem says bankruptcy is a very real possibility.
When things get tough, businesses have to make tough decisions. It’s no different with the City of Prince Rupert. Passing the buck to the people who use the service should be taken off the table if council expects residents to pay for future needs.
Whether you agree or not, make sure you let council know your thoughts on April 15.