Tax cuts coming
Councillors hope for better financial management in the future

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( Jun 14/00) - It appears council will approve a two per cent decrease in property taxes this summer, although councillors had hoped to offer more.

The city has been crunching numbers since the Corporate Services Committee recommended the tax cut last week, with hopes of lowering taxes by the same percentage as they were raised -- 3.7 per cent -- when the 2000 budget came down in December.

After inspecting the city's financial situation, city administration and council members alike realized cutting property taxes by 3.7 per cent was unrealistic at this point.

During the first and second readings of the Final Tax Instalment Levy bylaw on Monday, several councillors pointed out that if the city had not had to cope with a loss of tax revenue after Giant Mine went bankrupt last year, the recent quarter-million dollar cut to its block funding and other unanticipated expenditures, a 3.7 per cent reduction could have been possible.

"I feel that the two per cent that we're giving back right now is all that we can do," said Coun. Alan Woytuik.

However, Woytuik said since the city is at the beginning of the 2001 budget process, he hopes council's priority will be to reduce expenditures and reimburse ratepayers the remaining 1.7 per cent in the upcoming year.

Monday's vote was a five to one split in favour of the two per cent tax cut. Coun. David McCann voted against the motion. Councillors Cheryl Best and Kevin O'Reilly could not attend the meeting.

The bylaw will be read for a third time at the next council meeting before it is enacted.

"I want 3.7 (per cent) -- I want a return to the past basically," McCann said after the meeting.

"If the city had the correct system in place, they would be able to make some of those scaling back on costs ... and that's really what I've been trying to bring to their attention for some number of months now. It's a matter of really explaining it to them one more time," he said.

McCann agreed with Woytuik's view that reducing expenditures should be a priority in the upcoming budget process, but his main concern is the absence of a city finance management system.

That means, he said, the city needs to implement an ongoing process to closely monitor its financial data and compare costs with other municipalities.

"We then get a sense of whether we're out of proportion or in proportion (with other municipalities) and that allows us to begin to trim things and adjust things and re-target some of our services for more effectiveness. That's really what it's about, how to get more effective," said McCann.