Monday, December 19, 2011

Fredericton residents can breathe a sigh of relief.
(Excerpts from the Editorial, Daily Gleaner, December 16/11)

The city will be holding the line on taxes for another year.

The news was made official with the release of the municipality's budget for 2012. In a nutshell, it keeps the tax rate at $1.42 per $100 of assessed property value on the inside rate and $1.06 per $100 on the outside rate. The reduced rate applies to properties that aren't in fully serviced parts of Fredericton.

The city successfully held increases in spending to two per cent even while the cost of inflation rose beyond that and at a time when the province once again trimmed the city's unconditional grant to $5.6 million.

With money restraints and demands being what they are these days, the tax rate could have easily gone in the other direction.

We believe this to be particularly true with the city coping to meet its infrastructure costs and when seemingly ever-increasing requests for funding are taken into consideration.

Much credit for this week's budget has to go to finance committee chairman Coun. Jordan Graham.

The 25-year-old University of New Brunswick student, the youngest city councillor in Fredericton's history, was elected four years ago at age 21.

The bottom line is that he did what Mayor Brad Woodside tasked him to do and delivered a budget that holds the tax rate.

"We squeezed as much value as we could from the resources that we were given," Coun. Graham said. "I think it's a budget that reflects something that council envisions as the way forward for the next year and embodies what we want to work towards and what we want to achieve."

Coun. Graham credits city hall department heads for bending the numbers to deliver the $101.9-million general fund operating budget and a $15.9-million water and sewer budget for 2012. Included in the operating budget is a $14.7-million capital budget for infrastructure renewal.

"We saw examples of tremendous co-operation within departments. People transferring vehicles where they didn't need them, eliminating positions to create new positions in other departments. Staff worked tremendously hard to get to where we are today. I'm very proud to be part of the team we have here," Coun. Graham said.

Credit should also be given to all councillors and the mayor.

They held small group discussions to plot a unified course and then handed most of the budget preparation work to city hall staff. The process ran quickly and there were no clashes.

"We worked together collectively, shooting for the same star. We got the same goals, the same objectives, the same dreams and we worked together quite well," Mayor Woodside said. "Coun. Graham, you did an extraordinary job ... We performed as the public would expect us to with this council."

While there will be fee hikes in areas such as transit fares, monthly parking pass rates, and ice rentals, we believe the budget is a good one for the city and its residents.

Furthermore, we are pleased it was accomplished in a non-confrontational manner.

We urge mayor and council to continue to work together in 2012.

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