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Tax hike budget moves one step closer to adoption

City council was expected to give the first three readings to a 13.6 per cent tax increase Tuesday night, despite pleas from some to re-consider the budget.

Recommendations by city staff to give first, second and third reading to both the budget bylaw and a tax rates bylaw were on the table at last night’s council meeting, after the Mirror went to press. For the latest updates, visit www.campbellrivermirror.com

Both bylaws were expected to pass, as the four councillors who voted in support of the tax increase indicated they were standing by their decisions, despite hearing from 23 people  opposed to the tax hike.

“While I appreciate them coming forward and giving their perspective, my perspective hasn’t changed,” Coun. Ryan Mennie said after council heard from the first wave of delegations. “I still think I represent a large part of the community with my perspective.”

Coun. Mary Storry said she would only change her mind if new information were to come forward.

At last week’s council meeting, several members of the public asked city staff to go back and re-consider the budget. Nearly 100 people filled city hall to show solidarity.

“They (staff) can go back and find the cuts for you,” said Ray Green, who spoke in opposition of the tax increase. “Just tell them to go back and take another look.”

Mark Sullivan, who ran for city councillor in November’s election, had the same message for council.

“The people behind me know you’re putting forth your best efforts but please, have another look for us,” he said.

But staff did not come up with any new information and instead put a report in front of council asking it to sign off on the budget.

“The City of Campbell River conducted its annual Financial Plan deliberations through the Finance Committee meetings from January to April 2012,” said Laura Ciarniello, general manager of corporate services, in the report. “The Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw represents the results of those deliberations on a consolidated basis.”

Ciarniello said the result of those discussions is a 13.6 per cent increase, reduced to an overall residential tax increase of 7.10 per cent after factoring in a decrease in the parks parcel tax and garbage collection fees. The budget also reflects some alterations to services provided, use of the gaming reserve to fund Centennial Pool, an increase in utility rates, capital plan approval and one-time projects funded from reserves.

Council voted 4-3 for the tax increase March 27, to help erase a $3.6 million budget deficit.

Mayor Walter Jakeway, who ran a zero per cent tax increase election campaign, called for the public to rise up and protest the tax hike immediately following council’s vote.

Since then taxpayers have created Facebook pages in protest of council’s decision and staged a demonstration outside city hall prior to the April 3 council meeting.

Council is expected to adopt the budget bylaw on May 1 and has until May 15 to submit the budget to the provincial government.

For updates on this story visit our website, www.campbellrivermirror.com

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