Campbell River mayor hostile to capital spending

Too much of a distraction, looks bad, says Walter Jakeway

Robron Park improvements will be delayed for at least another year as council chose to cut the project from the 2012 budget to free up funding in city reserve accounts.

Council deliberated its capital budget (facilities and infrastructure) at Tuesday night’s financial planning meeting.

Most of the capital projects will be funded by the city’s reserves, or savings, accounts and will not be funded by taxation revenues.

Even so, Mayor Walter Jakeway was opposed to spending on capital projects.

“I’m trying to cut back on capital spending at all. We shouldn’t be spending it,” Jakeway said. “I’d cut out everything except the Downtown Revitalization Plan. Anything that isn’t already underway or spent should be gone.”

Coun. Andy Adams tried to explain capital spending would not affect taxation.

“It’s external funding that’s set aside for capital projects,” Adams said. “It doesn’t come from taxpayers.”

Jakeway said he would rather the city focused on eliminating the $3.6 million 2012 budget deficit and getting the city’s financial house in order than getting “distracted” by capital.

“I want everybody to get focused in 2012 on what they’re really here for and then in 2013, 2014 to have fun and spend capital,” Jakeway said. “Capital is a huge distraction, it requires meetings and gets us off target. We’ve got a huge problem and spending money looks bad.

“That’s why I keep saying a zero tax increase because I want to get everybody to pay attention to the problem. I know it looks like I don’t know what’s going on, but I know what’s going on. It’s time to get back to basics.”

Council did choose to withdraw its application to the province’s Community Recreation Program for the Robron Park upgrade project in order to free up $450,000 from the Parks Parcel Tax, $100,000 from the Gaming Reserve, and $300,000 from the Community Works Fund. However, council did vote to allocate $250,000 from the Parks Parcel Tax to be held in the reserve until the city is in a better position financially to undertake the project.

“I’ve been a big supporter of the Robron Park development project but unfortunately circumstances are such that we simply don’t have the funding to proceed at this time,” Coun. Claire Moglove said. “I know the project is important to the community but we just can’t do it in 2012.”

Jakeway disagreed that Robron Park is a priority to the community, noting some of the existing facilities are not well-used.

“I see an outdoor lacrosse box that gets almost no use,” he said.

Council also cut $125,000 from the capital budget for upgrades to the courtyard of the Enterprise Centre which houses Rivercorp and Tourism Campbell River.

Jakeway said he would prefer to see a new building.

“My dream would be to get them out of that building in two to three years,” Jakeway said. “It’s not a motivative, innovative, creative building.”

Council also raised residential water utility rates to: $15 per month as of April 1, $17 per month as of July 1, $19 a month on Jan. 1, 2013 and by $21 per month by July 1, 2013.

“We are the envy of Vancouver Island,” Moglove said. “To maintain our quality of water we require infrastructure upgrades. While I do understand this is a fairly significant increase..we have to be in a position to maintain a safe and dependable water system.”

Council also chose to take $219,000 from the garbage and recycling reserve to put towards reducing user fees for that service; took $442,500 from the tax stabilization reserve to address one-time costs in the 2012 budget; and took $25,000 from the fire equipment fire replacement reserve to replace the exhaust pipe at the downtown fire hall.