The City of Fernie has approved the 2020 budget, 2020 tax rates and the Five Year Financial Plan.
The budgets were officially accepted and approved at a May 11 city council meeting, after undergoing a public input phase that ended on May 4. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s budget is built around a zero per cent tax increase. According to the city, this lack of tax increase is in recognition of the significant challenges Fernie residents and businesses are currently facing.
“When the COVID-19 crisis hit we quickly directed staff to rethink the proposed 2020 budget and sharpen their pencils to find savings to offer some relief to residents,” explained mayor Ange Qualizza. “I want to thank staff for being nimble and delivering a budget that maintains a high level of service and funds key projects in 2020.”
Although several capital spending projects are being delayed until at least 2021 as a result of this new budget, others are going ahead in 2020. The Ghostrider commercial area will see major infrastructure replacements as part of capital spending this year and several other key projects will get attention.
The City of Fernie plans to complete the provincially required Housing Needs Report to take a closer look at housing needs in Fernie, as well as update their master plans for parks and recreation, arts and culture, and facilities. Another major project will be the development of a Climate Action Plan for the city that will help to inform future decisions in a climate friendly manner.
According to the City of Fernie, “the focus of major projects that are funded in the 2020 budget was to deliver on council’s strategic objectives, protect the safety of citizens, safeguard critical infrastructure and prepare for future investment.”
Even with the deferral of several projects within Fernie, more cuts need to be made in order to deliver the zero per cent tax increase. These cuts will come in the form of a three month closure of all indoor recreational facilities in the city. These facilities will not be expected to open before July 1, 2020.
After the public input phase of the budget review ended, City of Fernie staff were able to announce that the feedback gathered indicates that most respondents were generally supportive of the approach that the city is taking with the 2020 budget.