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NEWS: Iqaluit March 12, 2014 - 8:58 am

Iqaluit council achieves unanimous vote on 2014 budget

Councillors appoint runner-up Stephen Mansell to fill vacant spot

PETER VARGA
Stephen Mansell, who finished a close second in a by-election this past October, has been appointed to fill a seat on Iqaluit City Council left vacant by the departure of Mark Morrissey. (FILE PHOTO)
Stephen Mansell, who finished a close second in a by-election this past October, has been appointed to fill a seat on Iqaluit City Council left vacant by the departure of Mark Morrissey. (FILE PHOTO)
Luc Grandmaison, Iqaluit’s fire chief and head of the emergency services department, congratulates some city councillors for finally passing the City of Iqaluit’s 2014 budget, March 11. Grandmaison’s department, like others, had to cut expenses to limit this year’s tax increase. Chatting with the fire chief are councillors Noah Papatsie and Terry Dobbin, who pushed for lower increases than rates favoured by other members, including Joanasie Akumalik and Simon Nattaq, seated to the right. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Luc Grandmaison, Iqaluit’s fire chief and head of the emergency services department, congratulates some city councillors for finally passing the City of Iqaluit’s 2014 budget, March 11. Grandmaison’s department, like others, had to cut expenses to limit this year’s tax increase. Chatting with the fire chief are councillors Noah Papatsie and Terry Dobbin, who pushed for lower increases than rates favoured by other members, including Joanasie Akumalik and Simon Nattaq, seated to the right. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

The City of Iqaluit finally has a budget for 2014, after some 35 hours of deliberation by city council — including two rounds of re-negotiation and rewrites to a document first proposed by the city’s administration on Jan. 9.

City council, with all members in attendance, passed its second and final draft March 11 swiftly and unanimously.

According to the 2014 budget, residents will see taxes on all properties in Iqaluit rise by $1 on each $1,000 valuation. Also in store for residents are a 10-per cent increase in garbage collection fees, and a six per cent increase in water rates.

The actual increase to garbage collection amounts to $60.50 every two months, from a long-standing rate of $55.

The one-mill increase is one-third of what administration first proposed on all properties. Increases to sanitation and water rates remained as first proposed by administration.

Reaching agreement on the property tax increase was no small feat. Council first reached what seemed to be an agreement on a 1.5 mill increase after one month’s worth of meetings.

Then, as attendance to meetings dipped in February, doubt crept in among three members, who came to believe 1.5 mill was too high an increase.

Coun. Terry Dobbin and Coun. Noah Papatsie joined Coun. Kenny Bell in their opposition to the document.

They sent the proposal back for review a second time, when their opposition votes became a majority in a council that ran three members short at a Feb. 25 meeting.

Absent from those meetings were 1.5-mill proponent Mark Morrissey, who had resigned his seat as expected, and Simon Nattaq and Joanasie Akumalik, who were absent when council’s first draft was expected to pass.

The demand for a one-mill increase came more quickly, as council cut an order for a new $184,900 public works dump truck for 2014.

Coun. Mary Wilman, one of the longest-serving members on council, thanked residents “who called in support of council” during the lengthy budget deliberations. Many were former members of council, she said.

“This year’s budget has been challenging,” she said in her member’s statement. “As a councillor I want to say that preparation is key. We were ill-prepared. I want to be better prepared in future meetings.

“Sometimes we were concerned that city administration didn’t take us seriously,” Wilman said.

She then suggested the mayor, John Graham, order council to meet as a group next time, for better common understanding and quicker agreement on the budget.

“We never had a meeting in caucus,” she said. “I would like to see you start an initiative to get councillors together.”

Council had little trouble agreeing on another matter at the March 11 meeting: the empty seat left vacant by Mark Morrissey, who recently moved out of the territory.

Members resolved to appoint former councillor Stephen Mansell to the position, citing his experience and close second-place finish to Papatsie in a by-election held Oct. 28 last year.

Papatsie took a seat left vacant by the late Jimmy Kilabuk, who resigned due to illness in April, six months into his term, and died shortly after.

Papatsie edged Mansell by just 384 to 364 votes in the by-election, which was held at the same time as the territorial election.

Councillors quickly overruled the possibility of holding another election for Morrissey’s former seat.

“I have more than enough faith in Stephen Mansell, who was councillor last time,” Coun. Bell said, pointing to Mansell’s brief term, April 2011 to Sept. 2012, in council’s last mandate.

Council has yet to confirm Mansell’s acceptance of the appointment, although Wilman and Bell said they understood that he was interested in filling the vacant position.

“It’s his to say no to,” Bell said.

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