Campbell River city council discussed and set out its priorities for the next 10 years over three days of budget meetings this week.
What they came up with is not what anyone would call a flashy budget, Mayor Andy Adams admits, but he does feel like it continues to build on what council has maintained its goals to be over the past few budgets: incremental improvement and growth while keeping tax increases to a minimum.
The financial plan sees the city spending about $71 million for operations and another $33 million for capital projects next year requiring a tax increase of 2.1 per cent, meaning the average household will see a $51 increase on their property taxes come tax time.
“That’s about where I thought we’d come in,” Mayor Adams says. “I think it’s incredibly good value in terms of what the community is going to get as far as increased services. With what we’ve heard from the community, whether through the surveys that were done over the past year or just our interactions council has had with different agencies, organizations and just personal contact, I’m very, very comfortable with where we’re at.”
Highlights from budget week included a $1.9-million investment in the upgrades to the Big Rock Boat Ramp – just the beginning of phase one of the process – $80,000 going towards the design work on a soon-to-come major renovation and redesign of the Sportsplex (along with $150,000 for weight room equipment), a $200,000 injection into the rehabilitation of Walter Morgan’s Studio on the Sybil Andrews Cottage property in Willow Point, two additional RCMP officers on their way to the Campbell River detachment and an increase in auxiliary firefighter compensation.
“I think we’ve been responsible to our taxpayers,” agrees Coun. Marlene Wright. “We’ve tried to make it as viable for them as possible, and we have some services that are very costly and that we have to pay attention to.”
Coun. Colleen Evans agrees, saying the amount is “within the range I was hoping for.”
Coun. Larry Samson says he’s been dealing with city council budgets for a long time and this was maybe the best one he’s seen.
“This is my seventh budget on council and if you include my staff time this is probably my 20th budget with this city and it just gets better and better,” Samson says. “I think we put the city on solid ground as we continue to grow, we see the capital asset program well managed, we see our facilities and utilities well funded so that we can address our infrastructure as we go forward, and it was a good process.
Coun. Charlie Cornfield says that “2.1 (per cent) is a little more (of a tax increase) than I’d desired, because when you look at the $39 increase in our fees, that’s equivalent to about 1.56 per cent increase, which really puts us up to about 3.66 per cent,” but also says he was, overall, happy with the process and can live with the numbers they’d settled on, adding, “I appreciate all of the different perspectives that have come into play and all of the hard work that staff have done. Overall, I’d say it’s our best one yet.”
Coun. Ron Kerr agrees with Cornfield that, “it’s a little higher than I’d hoped,” but also echoes Cornfield’s sentiments about the process being a good one and being happy with the result overall.
“I’d like to thank council for their very careful deliberation,” says City Manager Deborah Sargent. “These are choices that don’t just impact our city today, but they impact our city into future years and carefully balancing the needs in our community and determining those that are most urgent and those most important to our long-term sustainability. We’re fortunate that right now we’re in a growth cycle, but I really appreciate the way council has been fiscally conservative in making sure that we’re not spending the whole piggy bank in one set of deliberations, but really trying to meet the needs of the community today while also leaving room for new needs that our community experiences every day as we grow and flourish.”