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New obstacles ahead as the City of Yellowknife maps out its long-term Capital plan

Yellowknife city council heard a presentation Monday about its capital plan. (Sidney Cohen/CBC - image credit)
Yellowknife city council heard a presentation Monday about its capital plan. (Sidney Cohen/CBC - image credit)

A Monday presentation to Yellowknife City Council suggests the city may not be able to complete all of its upcoming projects with its current resources.

Chris Greencorn, director of public works and engineering, laid out the potential for a financially tricky year due to inflation, supply chain issues, high interest rates, and a labour crunch.

Council's capital plan is worth $271 million over the next 10 years.

"We have similar budgets that we did 10 years ago, but we're getting less done," Greencorn told council. "What we used to be able to easily budget for has now become a bit of a curveball."

In anticipation of those issues, the city has already started taking preventative measures.

'We're robbing Peter to pay Paul'

Smaller annual projects like water and sewer replacement and paving will move to biennial programs.

Projects involving both could take longer to complete as a result.

Greencorn told council the move to the biennial programs was to ease strain on the city's capital fund, leaving more funding for other projects.

"We're robbing Peter to pay Paul" he said. "It's to address asset management pressures and incoming financial pressures."

Council heard how regulatory requirements are also increasing, putting strain on the city's water licenses being used for ongoing projects.

Chris Greencorn, Director of Public Works for the City of Yellowknife, says motorists should expect delays along Frankin Avenue again this summer, as the city works to replace water mains.
Chris Greencorn, Director of Public Works for the City of Yellowknife, says motorists should expect delays along Frankin Avenue again this summer, as the city works to replace water mains.

Chris Greencorn, director of public works for the City of Yellowknife, said the city's capital budget isn't going as far as it used to. (CBC)

Ongoing projects like the fire hall expansion and the city's new submarine water line are also experiencing budget shortfalls totalling close to $70 million because of soaring costs.

Kavi Pandoo, director of corporate services, reiterated that the city would likely have to prioritize some projects over others, increase revenue and control costs.

Pandoo highlighted the need to reassess projects in the carry-forward list, which total $59.7 million.

Even with budget shortfalls, Pandoo said, the funding transferred from the general fund into the capital fund should be doubled from $1 million to $2 million annually to deal with high-priority tasks.

Pressing 'pause'

This could require raising taxes and fees in small increments, and possibly introducing a new capital levy.

Pandoo also said pursuing grants and potentially borrowing for ongoing projects shouldn't be ruled out.

He concluded by saying to councilors, "I know we have a very passionate committee, but when we are struggling, is it wise to keep going, or is it just wise to stop and take a break?"

Members of the public can send their feedback to the city until Jan. 31.

Budget deliberations will take place in February, with the final budget expected to be approved by council on Feb. 12.

The 2024 budget can be found on the city's website.