After three budget deliberation sessions, North Battleford’s city council will begin preliminary approvals of portions of the 2017 budget.
In the final of the three deliberations ending Dec. 7, council went over fire and protective services, general government services, and the underground pipeline and asphalt replacement (UPAR) program.
City manager Jim Puffalt said UPAR is something that will need to be approved by council as soon as possible.
“UPAR for sure we need to go as quickly as we can because that's very labour intensive to get the tenders out,” he said.
UPAR will be expanded in 2017 in an attempt to replace more underground pipeline than laid this year in order to keep up with aging pipes. The average homeowner will see an increase of roughly $120 per year to keep up with the replacements, divided between the UPAR tax and the water and sewer utility tax.
Puffalt said an exciting prospect in 2017 is Community Safety Officers (CSO) potentially taking on more responsibility. The city is currently in negotiations with the province and RCMP to have the CSOs assume more duties, including low risk criminal code offences like mischief under $5,000, theft under $5,000 not in progress, and response to non-injury motor vehicle collisions.
“What that does is really starts to establish two-tier policing in North Battleford. We’re leading the country on this one because nobody else is doing this that we’re aware of, by taking actual criminal code offenses that are low risk and not in progress, and allowing a CSO, an unarmed officer, to take a look at that,” Puffalt said. “It allows the RCMP to focus on what they're good at, which is full-fledged policing, dealing with street crime and drugs and gangs and all that other stuff. That's really what they're geared toward.”
One loose end in the budget is the idea of raising the city’s debt limit beyond $45 million to allow the city to tackle more expensive projects.
“That's not something we're going to do quickly, we're going to take our time and take an opportunity to see what council wants, and debate and discuss our philosophy going forward,” Puffalt said. “Any of those projects that are in the budget that are listed as new debt, those won't be approved until council has an opportunity to take a look at it.”
Also a question, whether the census in 2017 will reveal North Battleford’s population to be more than 15,000. If it is, the city’s contract with the federal RCMP will change to make the city responsible for 90 per cent of the cost of the Battlefords RCMP in North Battleford, rather than its current 70. This would be an estimated cost of an additional $1 million per year.
The budget will be before council at the next city council meeting, Monday Dec. 12.
Sarah Rae is battlefordsNOW's court and crime reporter. She can be reached at [email protected] or tweet her @sarahjeanrae.
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