I would like to provide information regarding comments in the report “Five-year financial plan approved by council.” Council had opportunities to discuss and vote on the preliminary 2014 budget two times in 2013 and again in early 2014.
The first draft budget proposed a 2 per cent tax increase. This vote passed with myself and Councillor Pearson being the only councillors voting against the tax increase on October 15. On November 25, council voted unanimously to approve a revised preliminary budget. The third time the budget came before council was in February 2014.
The only real difference between what was presented to (and approved by council) a few months ago is that now there is virtually no tax increase.
There is money available for infrastructure, road and sidewalk improvements, increases for fire department and policing, a new honorarium for volunteer firefighters, a new fund for a seniors/youth centre, park enhancements, and more.
The three main concerns raised by councillors at the April 28 meeting are good points that need to be addressed. One was about funds for building maintenance. To confirm, the budget includes funds for building maintenance. We started working on badly-needed maintenance last year as this had been neglected in the past. Another point was that revenues from development and rezonings are at record low levels. This is a wake-up call for our current and future councils – we need to watch the revenue stream and make adjustments accordingly and not shift the burden to taxpayers.
The final issue was that costs for the sewer service under the current EPCOR contract, approved by the previous council in 2011, are not sustainable. Things need to change. We can look at other options to find the best deal for taxpayers. For example, Port Hardy cancelled its contract with EPCOR half-way through a 20-year deal and brought these services in house and took on the former EPCOR employees.
I am very grateful for and proud of the work done by the Finance and Administration Committee members and staff who exceeded council’s expectations and delivered a 2014 budget that council adopted with spending on priorities with an almost 0 per cent increase on the municipal portion of taxes.
Chair, Finance and Administration Committee