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City budget made official, with surplus for 2011

Two and half months after hammering out the city’s 2011 budget, city council made it official.

Councillors adopted the five-year financial plan at Tuesday night’s council meeting.

The budget passed with a $275,615 surplus for this year thanks in part to a tax levy error by the Strathcona Regional District, which injected $305,000 into the budget, new construction revenue of $339,392 and a 2009 budget surplus of $138,768.

Council began the budget development process with a $1.87 million deficit but made $3.6 million in cuts, which included reducing operating expenses, to help balance the books.

It also opted for a four per cent increase in residential taxation and a .5 per cent business tax increase.

Coun. Mary Storry said she was satisfied the reductions council made were largely centred around the operations at City Hall and will not affect residents’ quality of life.

“All of council heard from the public in different ways and the message seemed to be that the public was not prepared to lose any services,” said Storry. “I’m pleased the cuts haven’t resulted in any lost services. Certainly it would have been easy to say we want a one per cent tax increase this year and leave problems for next year’s council.”

Coun. Claire Moglove pointed out this year’s $200 increase to the Home Owner Grant program for people in northern and rural communities, will mean most residents won’t even see an increase in city property taxes.

“It means the four per cent will be completely offset by the increase in the home owner’s grant, which I’m sure will be something residents of Campbell River will be pleased to hear,” said Moglove. “It should provide considerable ease to Campbell River homeowners.”

Council also pulled money from reserve accounts to cover the costs of a variety of community organizations’ projects and city improvements.

Coun. Andy Adams warned that practice may have worked for the short-term, but council needs to come up with a long-term strategy.

“Continual draws on accumulated surplus reserves are not sustainable and will need to be added to in future years’ budgets,” said Adams. “We want to ensure future council’s are in a much better position than we were in the last few years.”

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