As expected, the taxpayers of Campbell River are in for another base tax rate increase next year, but it’s not as high as it started out at the beginning of council’s three-day financial planning deliberations on Monday.
The week began with a proposed 2019 budget that would see tax payers get a 2.7 per cent tax hike next year, but council had the opportunity to bring that number down by using the money from its estimated non-market change revenue – basically, the money it receives from new development.
The estimate for next year is that the city will receive $450,000 from that revenue source – which could have been used to bring down the tax increase – but that money was eaten up by increased service level changes on the last day of the planning session, so council could only manage to get the tax increase down to 2.55 per cent.
In general, next year’s budget is made up of its base operating budget – the money the city needs to keep people employed, keep facilities open and maintain the level of services it already offers – along with approximately $17 million in work on capital projects like repairs to Centennial Pool, Willis Road, Highway 19A, a transit pullout at Carihi Secondary on Dogwood Street and an increased number of transit shelters, along with a few increased service levels.
Those include a new police officer for the Campbell River RCMP detachment, another building inspector to keep development happening efficiently and another raise for the community’s auxiliary firefighters to get them closer to the provincial average.
Mayor Andy Adams says while he would have preferred to see the tax increase come in somewhere around 2.25 per cent, he’s pleased with how council managed to work through the three-day planning session and keep their eye on the bottom line.
“I was looking at keeping things in line with the national rate of inflation, which is somewhere around 2 to 2.4 (per cent),” Adams said after the conclusion of the planning sessions Wednesday. “Personally, I was looking at about 2.25 (per cent) as the max, but it was the will of council and what they deemed important and that’s what we have collectively come to terms with.”
Coun. Claire Moglove, based on her closing remarks during the session, agrees with Adams about the tax rate, but she was also somewhat surprised at how much smoother the process is these days than when she was last on council four years ago.
“The process that you have developed is a significant improvement over the budget deliberations that we had when I was previously on council and I really, really appreciate the clarity of all the information presented,” Moglove said. “Would I prefer to have had the tax increase be less? Probably. But when you look at the inflationary pressures on the city in terms of how much extra it costs just to continue to deliver the existing services – and I think the services we have are appreciated by the vast majority of our citizens – so when we are able to keep the tax increase within reason, close to the rate of inflation, I think we’ve done a very good job.”
Coun. Ron Kerr agrees with Moglove that the process is very smooth these days.
“As much as financial planning can be considered enjoyable,” he said with a chuckle, “it really has been. I’d like to thank staff for their preparation and acting as a resource for us throughout the process. It’s been a very smooth process, much like our 10-year plan, which looks smooth, too. There aren’t the traditional ups and downs that we’ve seen over the years. There are a lot of new and exciting projects moving ahead and I’m looking forward to the coming year.”
Likewise, Coun. Colleen Evans says she, too, thinks they made the right decisions this week.
“I think where we came in (on the tax rate) was in the range I expected and I think we did a good job as a council to get to where we need to be,” Evans said. “I think we’ve made a lot of great decisions for our community and moved a lot of things forward that have been on our plate for a while.”
City staff will now draft a budget bylaw based on the decisions made this week to be presented at the Dec. 17 public meeting of city council for adoption.