Budget cut to near-zero tax hikeNEWS/Entries/2019/12/6_Budget_cut_to_near-zero_tax_hike.html
Joint task force makes drug bustNEWS/Entries/2019/12/6_Joint_task_force_makes_drug_bust.html
Annexation costs covered by taxNEWS/Entries/2019/12/6_Annexation_costs_covered_by_tax.html
Local storage facility expandedNEWS/Entries/2019/12/6_Local_storage_facility_expanded.html

Volume 24, Number 48, Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Fort responds to double tragedy

With an expected tax increase of almost zero, the 2020 City of Fort Saskatchewan budget is a source of pride for many members of City Council. But I don't see much to be proud of.

The $80.72 million budget started with $1.3 million less income thanks to grant cuts by Alberta's new UCP government. Despite this, Council started with an expected tax increase of just 2.1 per cent, or close to the inflation rate.

The City of Fort Saskatchewan is at the mercy of the UCP government to some extent, but not entirely. Provincial grants have been a bad joke for many years anyway, and most operating costs are already supported by local taxes and fees.

Holding property taxes where they are now means Fort Saskatchewan spending won't keep up with inflation or a growing population.

Sure, City of Fort Saskatchewan operations include plenty of waste. Any large organization does, be it public or private.

Unfortunately cutting spending doesn't necessarily mean improving efficiency. In fact, it hardly ever does. Fighting waste is a totally separate operation from setting a budget.

I have always felt that the place to make cuts is when deciding on major projects like a new recreation centre. These projects are often judged as necessary, but cannot be justified on an objective level. They are rightly described as nice to haves.

Police and fire services, roads, water, sewer and even transit and social services are real needs. They are must haves, because without them people aren't safe, or can't get to work.

Cutting property tax increases to less than the inflation rate means that the 2020 budget will not meet some of those must-have needs of this community.

Letting things slide like this has consequences. We need only look at the state of Edmonton roads to see exactly what can happen. We can also see that it is almost impossible to catch up with maintenance after falling behind that far.

City Council has the choice of maintaining services, or failing to do so. Delay or even cancel new luxury facilities by all means, but don't fail to maintain what we have.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Big Co-op prize donated to charityNEWS/Entries/2019/12/6_Big_Co-op_prize_donated_to_charity.html

Cutting budget can be costly

More than 300 people braved a cold Wednesday night, Nov. 27, to honour two young Fort lives lost last week.

The candlelight vigil was organized by friends of the families of one-year-old Ares Starrett and 15-year-old Jesse McPhee. Both died Saturday, Nov. 23. Starrett's father has been charged with his murder, and McPhee was struck and killed while crossing Highway 21 at 84 Street.

Though the boys' names could not be released by RCMP, those touched by the tragedies quickly came forward and the community was equally quick to respond. Along with the candlelight vigil, Ken's Catering was able to put together a charity dinner Sunday, Dec. 1.

The event raised $8,304.05 thanks to 20 volunteers and help from dozens of businesses, says organizer Ken Dalida. A full lineup of performers entertained for free that day as well.

The Atlantic Kitchen has also been helping Starrett's mother, who is a staff member. She and her surviving child will soon be returning to Newfoundland to bury Ares.

Ares' father, Damien Christopher Starrett, age 30, appeared in Fort Saskatchewan Provincial Court on Thursday, Nov. 28. His case was set over until Jan. 9. He is charged with second degree murder in the death of Ares, and assault against another child.

The response to the tragedy has been tremendous, says Dalida. People came forward to help his Dinner for a Cause without his even having to ask.

Along with the Atlantic Kitchen, he received help from Tim Hortons 1760, Millers Ice Cream, The Cotton Candy Shoppe, Norquest Industries, Country Chic Custom Designs, Jiffy Lube, Illustrious Interiors, A Little Loopy, Hidden Gem Salon, Lakeview Inn, Kanata Inn, No Frills, Funky Petals, the local Legion and Superior Show Services.

Entertainers that day include Sean Holowaty, David Jukebox Leigh, Stuart McGowan, Tony Poirier, Emo LeBlanc, Probable Crisis, Sebastian Steel, and Jamie Pruden.

Wednesday, Dec.4, 2019