AN UPDATE: see comments from Dan Wong Them’s Fightin’ Words!, plus Final Statements from Candidates

by David Biltek

Friday saw Gladys Blackmore, candidate for Mayor launch an attack on the Entire current Council:

Council claims increases to mil rates have been tiny; but the fact remains, ours is the highest mil rate in the province. And when coupled with recent increases in property values, the effective tax rate has been significantly higher. As a result, the city realized a NET PROFIT of over $30 million in EACH of 2011 and 2012. This money, almost $65 million, is sitting in reserves. Shouldn’t it be invested in infrastructure and economic development instead?” for more

to which Bill Given responded:

“Some very bad, intentional, misinformation is being circulated today by email and on Facebook, about how the city manages it’s savings accounts, otherwise known as reserves. “Reserves” are a fancy name for savings accounts and the city maintains 12 different ones. Each has a different purpose...read more “You Don’t Deserve to be Misled

DAN WONG, Current Councillor but NOT running this time weighs in and in some detail explains the reserves and how they have been handled in the last 2 – 3 years. This is from a man who was there and knows of what he speaks:

“At the risk of getting too involved, I felt I had to respond to the latest information released by the Gladys Blackmore campaign..There are no politicians out there who don’t want to decrease your taxes where possible and no one out there really suggesting the reserves be collapsed and spent — that’s why it’s not explicitly stated as a solution.  This is an example of careful wording in an attempt to instill enough doubt in the mind of the electorate. ” To Read the complete article click here: Dan Wong Blog 

MY Take on all This

The old mil rate claim….it is likely true, but it is meaningless. The mil rate is simply a tool to ensure everyone WITHIN A MUNICIPALITY pays their fair share, based on the value of YOUR PROPERTY, of the city budget. The mil rate is determined yearly, it changes, it is determined essentially by dividing the City Budget by the VALUE of all assessed properties WITHIN the CITY (for a more detailed explanation see GPVOTERS.CA) So one might compare with other cities but it is like the proverbial comaparing apples to oranges, the mil rate is a tool to be used within a city.

When property values go up, the total assesed value goes up, so the mil rate changes, and again the budget is shared equally based on the value of your individual property. It is possible depending on changes in values, and what new properties and their type have been added to see a change in the mil rate, it may even go down, but it is still used to share the burden equally based on the value of your property.

Yes it may be an antiquated and complicated system, but it is what is PROSCRIBED by the PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT. Failure to either understand this or to pervert it for political gain is questionable.

Regarding the reserves. It is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that the CITY maintain adequate reserves. WHY?

The City, in fact ALL MUNICIPALITIES in ALBERTA are PROHIBITED from running deficit budgets. Unlike the Provincial and Federal Governments, Cities are NOT PERMITTED TO BORROW for OPERATIONAL EXPENDITURES. They may borrow for capital projects, but not operational expenses. So what difference does that make?

If there was to be a “One in a hundred year” snow season and the costs to remove snow were substantially higher than usual, the City has a reserve upon which it may draw to pay the added costs. Or if there was a major disaster like the flood in Calgary (or heaven forbid a Lake Megantic type disaster) and the City incurred substantial costs in emergency crews overtime, assistance etc. they would have the cash upon which they could draw.

When I was on Council in the early 1990’s the Klein lead Conservative Provincial Government drastically cut grants to the Cities. In some cases like the assistance for maintenance of Muskoseepi park the grant was cut to zero. At that time the City reserves were pathetically low and totally inadequate and were we forced to make substantial and immediate program cuts. If there were adequate reserves we could have dipped into them and eased into the cuts more slowly. After that the City started to accumulate more reserves. As the City gets larger and as commitments to operations increase the City’s reserves also need to grow. As any business owner knows, and as many of the senior managers of local institutions also are well aware, failure to have adequate reserves for operations is fiscally irresponsible and is only done at great risk to the organization.

To suggest that the reserves be drained for current projects is absolute folly and is not in anyway “fiscally responsible” .  As a senior person of a local educational institution said today: “Thank god for reserves …”

Some people have made fun of a reserve for perpetual care at the Cemetery. It is a serious matter. I have spent much time in England and can attest to the terrible state of cemeteries throughout the country, some centuries old, that do NOT have perpetual care funds in place. The burden on CURRENT Churches and Cities is in many cases overwhelming.

Failure to adequately understand these issues after six years on Council is either purposefully misleading, manipulation for political gain,or a belies a  grasp of the operations of a complex organization like the City, a lack of business experience and knowledge of proper practices, all of which does not recommend one to lead this City.

FINAL STATEMENTS FROM CANDIDATES FOR COUNCIL

all candidates were offered space, the following replied:

Jackie Clayton

“On Monday, a vote for me will ensure a legacy for your children in the City of Grande Prairie and its community, and a focused and responsible long term plan for the future of your business.” for more

John Croken:

“As your new councillor I am going to erge councill to put a full time day care for city employees at the eastlink sportsplex and have 132 ave paving project moved to 2014 budget”

Jared Gossen

“Our City is equipped with a diverse set of assets.  This may lead many to thinking that there are a number of directions to head in and how do we choose?”…click here for more

Dwight Logan

“I am well known for my service in our City’s political life.
I have served three terms as an Alderman, and three terms as Mayor”… for more.

Miriam Mahnic

“Dream Big we have such incredible potential…As a Community Development Officer I have worked with”to read more click here

Kevin McLean

“I am excited for the election on Monday. I have enjoyed my term on council because it was productive. There is more work to do to stabilize taxes down where we have them and to lower the debt. I hope you will again put your trust in me and Vote McLean.”

Justin Munroe

“Grande Prairie, like most communities in our country, has some real challenges in its future. My business background & experience tell me we need to trust our instincts” to read more click here

Kevin O’Toole:

“I have a passion for this city, I truly believe I have had a huge impact on council and the people of Grande Prairie in these past three years. I have goals and projects that I would like to see completed in the next four years example Poverty reduction, homelessness, major road developed to give flexibility where we travel take pressure off many major intersections. Both North and South and East and west travel routes need to expand. And constant communication with all levels of Government.”

Lorne Radbourne

“Congrats to all candidates for offering to serve their community. Our report card comes out Monday. Good luck to everyone!”

Helen Rice

“There is no time to waste. In order to lower taxes and become sustainable we need a level playing field, Let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

Erin Steidel

Stumble, everyone does from time to time.  It is what you do after that really shows one’s character.  I have stumbled many times, and I have gotten back up and continued to move forward.  This is my last blog post before the election, and so, if you were unable to attend the chamber forum on Thursday night (or if you were there and want to know what I meant to say) here is my speech.” read more

Rory Tarant

I had a very humbling experience today while door knocking. I knocked on a door and was greeted by a lady in her 50s of Middle Eastern descent.  After introducing myself, tears welled in the lady’s eyes…READ MORE

Chris Thiessen

“I am a hard-working and caring individual with a passionate drive to help people in any way I can. I will and always have done what it takes to create a positive difference in our city.”

For a more complete review of the Candidates go to: GPVOTERS.CA Daryl White has developed a website for the election with a very good summary of candidates plus articles on some of the issues.

ON MONDAY OCTOBER 21…ELECTION NIGHT…

LIVE ELECTION WEBCAST hosted by Fred Rinne, Editor of the Daily Herald Tribune and Dan Wong (City Councillor)

go to LIVE ELECTION WEBCAST.

AND DURING THE NIGHT FROM 7:30PM on….Intelligent, Insightful and entertaining commentary  (we hope!) from:

Daryl White from GPVOTERS.CADawn Moffat McMaster (twitter: @DANILOTH), Eric Burton from MRGRANDEPRAIRIE,

and I will be blogging, tweeting and commenting on the election issues, people and the results Follow along at:

Daryl White will be live blogging at GPVOTERS.CA

Dawn Moffat will be tweeting : @Daniloth

Eric Burton will be posting on http://mrgrandeprairie.wordpress.com/

and I will be tweeting: @DavidBiltek and facebook: Grande Prairie

and at https://www.facebook.com/david.biltek

Look forward to you joining the conversations adding any gossip, rumours and cogent observations.

The Who, What, When, Where and How of Voting

First the REQUIREMENTS: Essentially you will need photo ID proof that you are a resident of the City of Grande Prairie, a current drivers licence will work, but for more thorough details: RIGHT ID TO VOTE

For information on WHERE to VOTE, and WHEN: CITY OF GP ELECTION INFO and for Candidates information: GPVOTERS.CA

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