Campbell River expected to pass tax increase

Council developed the city’s financial plan over the course of four days

A 3.91 per cent residential tax increase was expected to be signed off on by council Tuesday afternoon.

A special council meeting was arranged Tuesday, after the Mirror went to press, in order for council to give first three readings to the city’s five-year financial plan which includes the 2013 city budget.

Council developed the city’s financial plan over the course of four days – two in early December to form the base budget and two in late-January to work out service level changes, the capital plan and taxation levels.

This is expected to be the earliest the city has ever submitted its financial plan to the province in recent history.

Laura Ciarniello, the city’s manager of corporate services, said the financial plan is the culmination of a lot of hard work.

“The five year financial plan represents the results of those deliberations on a consolidated basis,” Ciarniello said. “The bylaw was constructed using results of the deliberations including the council approved residential tax increase of 3.91 per cent.”

The budget maintains the Parks Parcel Tax at $25 but contains no tax increase for other tax classes.

Also included in the budget is $40,000 for RCMP building repairs, $25,000 for the downtown fire hall exterior repairs and painting, as well as $30,000 for exterior painting on the Community Centre.

Council also approved an increase in pay for auxiliary firefighters worth $15,340 as well as $100,000 in airport business opportunities.

In an effort to partially restore funding cut from a handful of city departments last year, council also included $45,000 earmarked for maintenance and repairs on city facilities as well as $24,500 for horticulture services (gardening and grass trimming, most notably at the welcome to Campbell River sign at Jubilee and Highway 19A).

The budget was approved in January by councillors Andy Adams, Ryan Mennie, Claire Moglove and Mary Storry while Mayor Walter Jakeway and councillors Ron Kerr and Larry Samson were opposed.

Jakeway said more needed to be cut, particularly staffing levels at city hall, and the savings put towards the city’s $6 million debt.

He also disagreed with the capital plan, in which council approved a plan to borrow $15 million over 15 years to pay for nearly $60 million in water and sewer projects between 2013 and 2017.

Moglove, who did approve the budget, was concerned council drew too heavily on reserve accounts in forming the budget.

“Yesterday I said we were sleep walking to the abyss,” Moglove said during a budget planning meeting Jan. 29. “I would say since then we took so much from reserves that we have gone to a jog.

“With this budget, what we are doing, in my opinion, is simply postponing a tax increase to future councils.”

Both Moglove and Adams warned that in the end, the city is going to have to “pay the piper.”