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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — City council received the official presentation on the operational budget and had a chance to discuss it in their most recent meeting. 

The operational budget and staff recommendations were presented to council by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) David Joy at the committee of the whole meeting on January 23rd. 

Joy walked council through the current budget and the steps needed to balance the $5.6 million deficit budget, including the rise in taxes and increased withdrawal from the Peace River Agreement (PRA). 

The proposed three per cent rise in taxes would see the average property owner in Fort St. John pay approximately $154.

The CFO explained that Fort St. John was not the only community raising taxes going into 2023 and that communities across British Columbia were raising taxes. Joy also mentioned that the city of Fort St. John had not been raising taxes over the last few years, making the three per cent rise this year seem sharp. 

Besides the increase in taxes, council seemed most concerned with the increased withdrawal of funds from the PRA. 

Councillor Byron Stewart stated that the prospect of increasing the amount taken out of the PRA for the operational budget was not something he was comfortable with at all. 

Councillor Trevor Bolin, and Councillor Tony Zabinsky echoed similar sentiments. 

The PRA was initially signed in 2015 and is a 20-year agreement that was signed with the Province of B.C. The province provides funding each year instead of property taxes for industrial projects outside of the communities boundaries. The City of Fort St. John uses its funds for necessary infrastructure improvements and to provide services to industries, employees, and residents in the community. 

As per council policy, PRA funds can only be used in certain amounts for certain projects. Generally speaking, the PRA is meant primarily for use in capital projects. The council policy only allows 10 per cent of the PRA funds to be used for operational costs. 

The main concern of council was that they wanted to stay within the PRA agreement and avoid becoming too reliant on it for budgets in the future. 

At the end of the presentation, council moved to receive the presentation on the operational budget for information. 

A public meeting will be held to discuss the operational budget further, though there is no official date yet. 

The full operational budget presentation can be viewed below: 

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Katherine Caddel is a recent graduate of Laurentian University's English Media and Rhetoric program. They grew up in Northern Ontario and recently decided to make the North Peace their new home. When not at work, Katherine enjoys horror movies, playing video games and Dungeons and Dragons.