Council briefs: City shaves tax increase

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The city’s property tax rate increase this year will be smaller than originally predicted.

The city had originally budgeted to increase the property tax rate by 1.24 per cent.
“I am pleased to confirm that it will be slightly lower,” said senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett on Monday at a municipal services committee meeting as councillors were considering a bylaw that would enact the mill rates for the year.

The increase would be 0.02 smaller, at 1.22 per cent. She said the change is due to higher than expected property assessment values. A 1.22-per-cent increase would mean an additional $7 in taxes for a property valued at $100,000, according to the city.

The bylaw to set mill rates passed first reading Monday and still needs to pass two more readings before it is finalized.

Fee increase goes ahead
The city will go ahead with raising various fees to use recreational facilities by three per cent, despite a last-minute attempt by Coun. Rebecca Alty to halt the change.
Alty moved a motion Monday to amend a bylaw to remove the three per cent fee increase. She said council needs to review its philosophy on increasing fees yearly, which the city has done to deal with rising inflation, utilities and staff costs. “I appreciate that administration feels that we have to increase three per cent every year, we are not seeing the benefit,” she said.

Jeff Dalley, the city’s director of corporate services shown at a meeting in April, said he couldn’t quickly provide an estimate of how much a councillor’s proposal to scrap a user fee increase this year would cost the city in revenue.
Shane Magee/NNSL photo

Jeff Dalley, the city’s director of corporate services, said he couldn’t provide an immediate estimate of how much revenue scrapping the change would cost the city this year.

Councillors worried about going ahead without a clear idea of the financial impact. Coun. Adrian Bell said he believed the issue deserves a further look – at a later point.

Coun. Linda Bussey agreed. “Every year we talk extensively about fees,” she said. “I think we need to have a way to have that conversation once and for all.”

Coun. Niels Konge was the only councillor to vote with Alty for scrapping the fee increase. “I hear a lot of the user groups – they can’t get more time, they’re having fees increasing all the time, they’re challenged to be efficient and competitive with all the other user groups and they’re seeing increases they have to pass on to their membership. Especially with the kids I feel that we could help them out,” he said.

Her move to amend the bylaw failed in a 6-2 vote though the issue will likely arise again within the next year.

The bylaw also included an increase to the medical transfer fee, which applies when city ambulances transport people to and from medevac flights and Stanton Territorial Hospital or between other health-care facilities.

The fee is charged to the GNWT and will increase from $475 to $700 in 2018. The fee will rise to $1,100 by 2020, which is expected to cover the cost of the service.

Of bike lanes and bylaws
Should cyclists be able to drive on the roadway if a separate bike path, like through Old Town, is provided?

It’s a question Coun. Julian Morse raised Monday in asking for city staff to review portions of the Highway Traffic bylaw dealing with cyclists. Morse also said rules need to be clearly communicated to residents.

Coun. Adrian Bell suggested the work be incorporated into a larger city review of its multi-use pathway plans.

But staff hinted the work may take some time due to other priorities. “It’s a little daunting, let’s put it that way,” said senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett about the workload staff are facing.

Mayor Mark Heyck pointed out the Motor Vehicles Act, territorial legislation, would supersede city bylaws so the city must work within that legislation.