GPconservative has a post looking at how the city is paying for the Aquatics Centre and the additional money that council dedicated towards paying for it.
He did miss the fact that a chunk of the $2.9m in extra money is actually coming from the new construction in the city, it's not all from the provincial reduction in Education property taxes.
Other than that I think over all he's pretty accurate on his post. The mill rates vs. tax rate thing can be confusing (I've looked at mill rate before ) but the essence of what he says is correct: The province is collecting less tax from property in Grande Prairie and the city is "capturing" it or "moving in to the space vacated by the province".
This isn't the first time this has happened the province has slowly been moving out the property tax area for sometime and in the last couple of years I've voted to support the City taking that space each time it's come available. This is a major plank in the AUMA's argument for funding for cities.... the province has lots of revenue sources (income tax, user fees, royalties), as municipalities we only have property taxes (and to a limited extent user fees and grants). So unless we get additional taxing powers (a whole other discussion) then we need all the room we can get in the property tax area.
The only thing that I'd suggest GPconservative might be off base about is that that it's an "Aquatics Centre Tax". The money is going towards the Aquatics centre, that's true. But it could have gone towards anything... all the way from lowing the tax increase (as you pointed out) to additional spending on some other project or service. So that's a matter of perception really and I can understand that some people will see it that way.
How ever you see it I firmly believe that it was the right decision.
Council choose to apply it towards some of the money we had anticipated borrowing, essentially increasing our "down payment" and decreasing the amount of the "mortgage" on the Aquatics Centre.
As you know, the more you put down up front, the less you pay in interest over time. The DHT article kind of mentions this " ...borrowing will decrease by $8.8 million and reduce debt services charges by $672,000 in 2010." but doesn't get the real scope of the savings... I'm pretty sure it actually saves $672,000 ANNUALLY starting in 2010. Over the term of the borrowing that equals a lot of tax payer dollars that won't be spend on interest payments!
So, yes this additional money is going towards the Aquatics Centre and yes it could have gone towards reducing the tax increase. But first off it wasn't planned that way a year ago, second the home owner will not pay more than the 9.7% increase council approved back in November and finally it will save tax payers over the long term.
I'm comfortable standing behind the decision.