The City of Fernie held an open house on Wednesday evening, allowing the public the opportunity to interact with Council and staff regarding the upcoming budget.
The open house, held at the Seniors Centre, focused on four different areas of development, including economic development, infrastructure, city services and facilities. The evening started with a budget presentation by the Director of Financial and Computer Services, Carla Fox. The presentation focused on the 2016 budget, along with the 2016-2020 financial plan for the city.
As it was presented, property tax is set to increase by the projected 3.4 per cent this year, translating to an additional $54.69 for the average household. Property taxes are projected to increase by 4.5 per cent in 2017, 3.8 per cent in 2018, 3.1 per cent in 2019 and 2.9 per cent in 2020. For 2016, the City will receive just under $5.3 million in property tax income. The City says their property tax increases are in the lower one third compared to 10 neighbouring communities. The only two municipalities with lower property tax increases are Invermere and Sparwood, respectively.
The budget went into details on how much money will be spent on different services, including street maintenance, facilities and upcoming projects. The projected total capital and one time project spending amounted to over $9 million.
After the presentation, Council and staff spread themselves out at various tables to answer questions directed at the different topics. Councillors Phil Iddon and Joe Warshawsky took questions on infrastructure, Councillors Dan McSkimming and Dennis Schafer focused on facilities while Councillor Ange Qualizza facilitated discussions on economic development. Councillor Jon Levesque and Mayor Mary Giuliano spoke on city services, including bylaw enforcement, which has been a topic of debate in regards to off-leash dogs as well as bears in the area. The City has budgeted $22,000 to hire two students to help with bylaw enforcement during the summer months.
The open house was well attended with approximately 30 residents engaged in discussion and asking questions pertinent to the upcoming budget. Both Council and staff commented on how it was the best attended open house they have hosted.
The full budget presentation is available for viewing on the City of Fernie’s website. City Council has to approve the 2016 budget by May 15.