North

Yellowknife budget passes with zero tax increases

Yellowknife's city council approved its 2015 budget on Monday night. No increases to property taxes were included, while fee increases for services like waste management were cut in half.

Fee increases for water, sewer and waste management services cut in half

Yellowknife mayor Mark Heyck on the zero tax increase budget: 'Councillors have heard from residents who are feeling the pinch of the cost of living.' (CBC)

Yellowknife's city council signed off Monday night on a much-debated 2015 budget, one that includes zero tax increases for residents — the second zero-tax-increase in the last three years. 

The city had previously mulled a 2.98-per-cent property tax increase for 2015.

"Councillors have heard from residents who are feeling the pinch of the cost of living," says Yellowknife Mayor Mark Heyck. "We can't do everything about that but we can look at controlling our own costs and trying to pass on those savings to our residents."

Groups like the NWT Chamber of Commerce had advised the city against raising taxes, citing the high cost of living and fears about a stagnant population. 

"You can't do better than zero per cent," says Mike Bradshaw, executive director of the NWT Chamber of Commerce, of Monday's budget. 

In addition to the tax freeze, a fee increase of 10 per cent for water and sewer services and a fee increase of five per cent for solid waste management were cut by half to five per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.

Tourism position, Niven rink nixed

Monday's budget approval came after weeks of close review and scrutiny by councillors, with veteran councillor Bob Brooks dubbing it "the most debated budget I've ever been involved in." 

A number of projects saw their budgets either trimmed or excised. Among the latter was a proposed three-year term position within city hall devoted to marketing Yellowknife to tourists.

"I think that has huge potential to benefit the local economy," says Heyck. "Unfortunately, councillors felt uncomfortable with adding [that] position."

Heyck says he was disappointed to see a combined basketball park and ice rink for the Niven Lake subdivision cut out.

"Councillors cut that under the rationale that kids could go to Weledeh School to use the equipment there  which, for a child or teenager living in Phase 7 of Niven Lake, is about a 2.2 kilometre walk. Unless you want to take a shortcut walking alongside the highway, which is only 2 kilometres."

Projects that will see funding in 2015 include a new water treatment plant, the Yellowknife day shelter and Tommy Forrest Ball Park, where the field will be greened. 

"It can be a pretty painful place to try to make a diving catch in the outfield," says Heyck.

The 2015 budget was approved at $81.2 million, with $24 million of that devoted to capital investments. 

The city is projecting revenues of $64.6 million for the year. 

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