City staff and Fort St. John City Council have come up with a way to make up for the Operating Budget short-fall.

The current 2009 Operating Budget has a short-fall of just under $1.3 million. The plan which will be present for formal approval on Monday, includes more money being transferred from Fair Share, money from the 2008 surplus and a cut to new city hires.

Originally, under the guidance of City Manger Diane Hunter, the Council had planed to reduce the amount of money taken from the Provincial Fair Share agreement and added to the operational budget. That money is supposed to be used for capital projects. Original the City had planned to take $331,607, they now propose to take $847,465. Council still says even with this years increase, they plan on removing all Fair Share money from the Operating Budget by 2011.

City staff have also agree to cut a number of positions that would have expanded city staffing levels. In total just over $200,000 will be saved by not hiring six new people in various city departments. The only catch, if council approves, is staff would like to be able to fill these positions as of January 2010 and not have to wait until the 2010 budget has been approved.

Council will also take $577,400 from the 2008 surplus with the remainder of the surplus being put into a new proposed budget stabilization policy.

It’s important to point out even with a balanced budget, taxes rates may still need to adjusted. Council requested a review of the City’s current tax ratios, and this report will be given next week. Some property classes may see a tax rate increase, while others may see a decrease or there could be no changes at all. The report was requested in order to make the tax rates between different property classes more equitable.