News Frizzell, Skakun share differing views after budget meeting SHARE ON: Brendan Pawliw, staff Tuesday, Feb. 12th, 2019 Photo courtesy of MY PG Now Snow removal was a hot topic of discussion for the City of Prince George at its budget meeting. A tax hike of 4.3% was approved once all the dust was settled on Monday night. The budget for snow removal is going up from seven million dollars to $8.5 million. Brian Skakun In an interview with My PG Now, city councilor Brian Skakun believes response times by snow removal crews lagged during the current winter season when compared to year’s past. “Instead of days getting to some areas, it took a couple of weeks. My understanding was we had some newer employees that were just getting up to speed and training on some of the equipment as we didn’t necessarily have full crews all the time and it’s so important that if we’re going to fund a snow removal program that we hit the ground running.” He adds clearing efforts need to be brought up to par and a funding hike wasn’t the answer. “I think we need to getter a much better grip on our snow removal and improve some training, do more work with our contractors and look at our service levels. It is a concern for myself and I was looking for some answers from the administration as far as any way to possibly reduce cost and maintain service levels.” Within a two month period, the city hauled away 58-hundred truckloads of snow according to Skakun. However, fellow councilor Garth Frizzell disagrees with Skakun, saying the increased dollars will be money well spent. “We are in the middle of February now and we’ve already spent two million dollars in the first month of this year’s snow budget so it goes really quickly. It was time to top it up and bring it higher so we have money in reserve for when we get those heavy snows.” “We get heavy snow and then we get thaws that melt it away and then the heavy stuff returns so the changes in the climate have led to some more extreme weather but at the same time, we held the budget for snow for several years at that lower level and it was time to bring it up.” Frizzell is equally as frustrated over the province’s Employer Health Tax, which added a million dollars to the budget and was partially responsible for the tax hike put forth by the council. “I understand that it helps them to balance their books on the Employer Health but it also means that the taxpayers are still getting hit by it. That’s an extra million dollars the city has to raise to pass straight on to the province, which is really frustrating.” “It is being presented as helping people out and it does help people out but it also costs, it costs those very same people including seniors living on a fixed income. It’s robbing Peter to pay Paul and it’s very frustrating for it to come off the taxes that are designed to handle it and then put it on to property tax, which was never designed to help this.” Council approved three enhancement projects including increased labour costs to staff Masich Place Stadium, an All Wheels Park within Blackburn Park and a Community Cultural Plan.