Funding requests rejected as Yellowknife prepares for ‘tight and frugal’ city budget

Yellowknife’s governance and priorities committee rejected funding requests from Makerspace YK, the Yellowknife Women’s Society and Folk on the Rocks, as well as a handful of community members on Monday. (Sidney Cohen/CBC)

$1.1M for more street outreach services among requests turned down

Yellowknife city council received a handful of funding requests from the public this year — but not a single one will be added to the 2024 draft budget.

During a meeting on Monday Kavi Pandoo, the city’s recently-appointed director of corporate services, told the city’s governance and priorities committee the upcoming budget would be “tight and frugal.”

“Frugal is one of my favourite words, along with ‘free’ and ‘discounts,'” he said, offering a moment of levity during a presentation about the city’s grim financial outlook for the fiscal year ahead.

Inflation, supply chain problems, and labour capacity topped the list of challenges Pandoo said the city is facing. Unpredictable weather events, a lack of affordable housing and slow population growth were also on the list.

“We need to remember a municipality has a legal and moral responsibility not to overstretch its resources,” he said. “It is extremely important for the city to prioritize along its long list of projects and programs, needless to say the delivery of core services comes at the top of that list.”

City manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett said administration is not yet considering trimming city services.

“At this point we haven’t come forward proposing we cut certain areas in order to enable others. We come forward with the overall recommendations of what the core and essential services are and what the resources are to support those,” Bassi-Kellett said.

The 2024 city budget has been pushed back because of the wildfire evacuation in the summer, and a draft of it is scheduled to be presented during a committee meeting on Jan. 15. There will be public input and council deliberations before it’s supposed to be finalized on Feb. 12.

What the public budget requests were

During Monday’s committee meeting, councillors decided whether civic administration should add funding requests from three stakeholders and eight community members to the planning process.

The Folk On The Rocks festival is requesting that the city forgive $60,000 from a $100,000 loan used to renovate the main stage so that it could, in turn, renovate another stage. That was the only request put to a vote.

Coun. Tom McLennan put the motion forward, saying the money would be invested into city-owned resources, would help Folk on the Rocks raise even more money for city-owned facilities, and would be used for “one of the biggest tourism events and draws in our community.”

McLennan’s motion was defeated however, when it went to a four-vote tie with support from councillors Cat McGurk, Ryan Fequet and Garrett Cochrane. Mayor Rebecca Alty and councillors Rob Warburton, Ben Hendriksen and Steve Payne voted against it.

Warburton worried about setting a precedent that groups could use to try and change deals they’d struck with the city, while Alty said she wanted to be “consistent and fair” with how it treats other organizations.

Makerspace YK’s request for up to $50,000 for operational funding and the Yellowknife Women’s Society’s request for $1.1 million a year for street outreach services and for van retrofit funding did not make it to a vote.

The committee also turned down a handful of requests from the public, who asked for things like a cost-benefit analysis about water delivery service in and around Old Town, a permanent outdoor hockey rink, and for more maintenance at Lakeview Cemetery.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: N.W.T. projected to spend $100M on fighting wildfires — 5 times more than budgeted

Russia: Huge budget deficit is building up in Russia’s economy

Sweden: Climate adaptation funding cut in budget in Sweden, Radio Sweden

Liny Lamberink, CBC News

Liny Lamberink is a reporter for CBC North. She previously worked for CBC London as a reporter and newsreader. She can be reached at

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