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Volume 21, Number 41, Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Zero tax increase budget planned

The 2017 City of Fort Saskatchewan Budget debate promises to be long and brutal. Council appears as divided as ever, with several members preparing for a fight.

Councillor Ed Sperling’s motion last week calling for administration to prepare a zero tax increase budget was one salvo in this war of words and posturing. Since the budget documents require months of work and had already been prepared, it meant absolutely nothing, but did give the appearance of blaming staff for any tax increase.

Sperling is one of several Council members that treat staff as opponents rather than, well, staff.

Arjun Randhawa is another councillor who feels he has to fight staff on behalf of voters. He said last week that his proposal to freeze water cutoffs was an effort to force the hand of administration.

Quite an odd thing to say for someone who is part of the administration.

Council is supposed to lead staff by providing direction in everything, including the budget. Council approves all of the policies and procedures staff must follow.

The real issue here is that these councillors are still angry because they didn’t get their way in the 2015 budget. Transit spending was approved, and they didn’t like it. Sperling, Randhawa and Sheldon Bossert hated it so much that they pushed through 11 new staff positions costing about $1 million just to mess with what could have been a great budget.

Like spoiled children, these three appear ready to fight the same arguments all over again, and are sure to blame everyone but themselves.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

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Brutal city budget debate ahead

Council will strive for no tax increase during this year’s budget debate, members agreed last week.

Councillor Ed Sperling’s motion directing staff to work toward a zero percent tax increase operating budget received four out of seven votes Tuesday, Oct. 11.

Council must still debate Fort Saskatchewan’s 2017 budget, however. The actual property tax rate won’t be set until April.

Chamber of Commerce leaders strongly supported the motion, speaking out at the meeting. Businessman and former Councillor Howard Johnson accused the current Council of spending recklessly, saying the property taxes on his business had nearly doubled over the past five years. “I would like to see someone held accountable for the overspending.”

He was particularly critical of the new local transit service, claiming it would be cheaper to buy cars for every one of the handful of riders.

Mayor Gale Katchur disagreed with the motion, saying staff should have been given direction in spring, rather than at the last minute.

Please see ZERO BUDGET, continued on Page 3.

Council should do its best to keep the tax increase at zero, she said. But it is all up to Council now, and not staff. “Maybe there is a zero tax increase,” she said. But the budget is too complex to simplify in this way. “I want to go through the due process.”

Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016