Next year will almost certainly see another round of municipal tax increases for Campbell River residents, but mayor Andy Adams and council opened this week’s discussion of the 2019-2028 Financial Plan optimistic that they will keep it to a minimum.
“In my inaugural address I reiterated that has been our goal to maintain the city’s tax rate in line with the national rate of inflation,” Adams said in his opening address Monday at the start of budget deliberations, “which is consistent with what we heard during the campaign period as the two most pressing issues: taxes and housing. Over the past four years, we have kept the tax rate increases to modest levels, which has brought us back to the middle when compared to similar size communities in B.C.
“But our aim is to be better than average, and gain a competitive advantage in terms of being the place people want to live, work and play,” Adams continued. “Last year we were very ambitious and funded a great deal of capital projects, which certainly put a great deal of pressure on staff and understandably some projects were not able to be completed and as a result will be carried forward into the coming year.”
That ambition seems to have continued into the coming year, as there were just over 200 projects “above the line” (meaning approved for funding) in the proposed capital projects section of this year’s document. But Adams was quick to point out that they needed to be realistic with what they are asking city staff to be able to accomplish in 12 months.
“We have to be mindful of the capacity of staff and not add too much more that creates unrealistic expectations and limits the ability to seize opportunities that may arise throughout the year,” Adams says.
While many of the 200-plus projects in the plan are actually carried over from last year’s budget and many others are on the books to begin in future years, there are still a few significant capital projects planned to begin in 2019, including $355,000 in pedestrian upgrades to Willis Road, another phase of Highway 19A upgrades to the tune of $3 million, $350,000 to install a bus pullout on Dogwood Street at Carihi and $500,000 in work at the entrance to the Maritime Heritage Centre.
The budget proposed at the beginning of this week would mean a 2.7 per cent tax increase for the tax payers of Campbell River – mainly due to built-in cost increases of running a city, such as the five per cent increase expected to come down from B.C. Hydro and increased wages and benefits that are built into collective bargaining agreements – but that number could change significantly based on the decisions made over the three-day marathon planning session. Council does have money available that they could choose to allocate to new services, increase service levels or decide to use to bring down that prospective tax increase.
“Over the past few weeks – and particularly in the past few days if not hours – council has received numerous requests from the community for added services. Some were even coming in as late as last night,” Adams said, all of which will be considered during this week’s deliberations.
“That being said, there are only so many dollars and so much that can be done.”
The final 2019-2028 budget should be set by the end of the week and approved by a bylaw at the Dec. 17 meeting. Watch for more on the budget in Friday’s Mirror.