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First night of 2022 budget in the books

First night of deliberations lasted over three hours
Budget night one
Night one of budget deliberations for 2022 took place Monday.

NORTH BATTLEFORD - The first session of 2022 budget deliberations is in the books in North Battleford.

Council went through a good portion of the budget document at their Planning Committee meeting Monday, conducted over the Zoom platform. 

The session, which ran over three hours, was the first of two budget meetings planned for this week. A special Planning Committee meeting has been called for Thursday at 5:15 p.m., which will also deal with the budget.

Administration outlined the operations and capital budget for General Government Services, Police Services, Planning and Development, Public Works and Protective Services.

City administration has proposed an overall 7.48 per cent tax increase as well as a three per cent increase in utilities. The main driver of the tax increase, explained City Manager Randy Patrick, was the rise in RCMP costs from recent negotiations. 

“A large percentage of our budget goes to RCMP and protective services in general,” said Patrick. 

City Finance Director Brent Nadon noted the pandemic continues to impact the city negatively, “particularly in parks and recreation,” he said.

Another issue Nadon noted is that “materials have been very hard to get in the last year, so it has delayed some of our capital accomplishments this year.” 

Waste management is also looking at an increase of four per cent, with expenses expected to increase slightly and overall revenue expected to decrease, mainly due to the Saskatchewan Hospital demolition project that was a one-off project this past summer.

At this point, there has been no final decisions made by council on the proposed increases, as council spent the first night mainly going over budget details proposed for the various departments.

A number of potential capital items are being proposed. The biggest item is the sanitary sewer force main project which is currently under construction. The cost is $6,465,510, with $4,310,340 coming from reserves while $2,155,170 would be raised from taxation. Administration has proposed a three per cent increase for utilities in 2022 to help pay for this portion.

Other major capital items being proposed are $120,000 for a sidewalk from the north side of Pioneer Avenue - 110th Street to Territorial Drive; $100,000 for one block and $1.15 million over five years, towards replacing city sidewalks; $100,000 for Wearing Road repair; and $1 million for Co-op/Sobeys intersection improvement. 

This latter project could see concrete medians installed to regulate traffic movement, as well as a potential road from Sobeys to 24th Avenue to connect to service road 95th Street to Killdeer Drive.

But the concern expressed from administration is that the medians could push the problems to 100th Street, with cars using the 100th Street exit. The indication from Director of Corporate Services Jennifer Niesink is they want to have the "entire thing looked at" with the current level of development and the proposed level of development, and have a design come back in the coming months.

As well, still to be worked out is the financing. The plan is for the city to tap into gas tax money for the largest portion, and the city is also applying for $250,000 from the province through the Urban Highway Connector Program. If they don't get it, said Patrick, they would have to pay this portion themselves. But he added they anticipate getting it.

"We hope we get it, and we think it's a really good project," Patrick told council. Once something is confirmed, he pledged to inform council.