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City looking at where $5.6M in provincial funding can best be used

Cranbrook city council has received and approved a draft copy of the 2023 budget that will be released for public review next week.

Cranbrook city council has received and approved a draft copy of the 2023 budget that will be released for public review next week.

Written comments for public feedback window will be open from March 13-24, before it is brought back to city council for consideration of three readings at the end of the month.

This year’s budget was developed through staff meetings in January, however, the $5.6 million windfall recently announced from the province’s Growing Communities Fund touched off a brief discussion during a special meeting on Tuesday, March 7.

With a 5.87 per cent tax levy increase on the horizon, some city councillors wanted to find ways to lessen the tax burden in future budget years.

“At the end of the day, it’s death by a thousand cuts to everybody,” said Coun. Wesly Graham. “We’re all taxpayers, we pay federally, we pay provincially, we pay civically, whether you’re in the RD [regional district] or the city and everywhere taxes are going up.”

As provincial guidance comes in on how the funding can be spent, city administration will have internal discussions in order to come up with options to bring forward to council.

“I think there’s an opportunity to take a moment and think about what the best use of that money is and borrowing is certainly something that, in my opinion, adds value to the $5.5 [million] in the avoidance of financing fees going forward,” said Charlotte Osborne, the city’s finance director. “So borrowing is certainly something that we’d put a high priority on.”

Some short-term borrowing items in the five-year financial plan include $2.1 million for mechanized garbage trucks in in 2023, and $1 million for a new fire engine in 2024.

Both items are currently funded through borrowing with five-year financing terms.

According to the province’s direction, the Growing Communities Fund is meant to be used to support community growth, mainly for infrastructure needs.

Similar to the COVID-19 restart funding meant to help municipalities recover from the effects of pandemic restrictions, the Growing Communities funding will be audited by the province to ensure it is being appropriately allocated.

Draft copies of the city’s budget and five-year financial plan will be released on Monday, March 13, which will be posted on the city’s website, while paper copies will available at city hall.

Trevor Crawley

About the Author: Trevor Crawley

Trevor Crawley has been a reporter with the Cranbrook Townsman and Black Press in various roles since 2011.
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