Campbell River taxpayers will pay more for parks and recreation when they get this year’s tax bill.
At Tuesday’s financial planning session – day two of budget deliberations – council approved a $12 increase to the Parks Parcel Tax for 2015.
City staff’s recommendation was to hold off until 2016 and implement a $15 increase to the Parks Parcel Tax, but council didn’t want to wait.
Mayor Andy Adams highlighted the importance of the Parks Parcel Tax, which allows the city to do more than the bare minimum – basic maintenance and modest improvements of city parks.
“For us to do anything beyond that we’re dipping into reserves or going into taxation,” Adams said. “There have been a number of parks projects and trail networks that we have not been able to move forward on, whether it be Ostler Park, whether it be Maritime Heritage Park, Frank James Park, Nunns Creek Park Master Plan, Greenways Loop, Willow Point Park enhancements, or the Robron Park Master Plan, or Nunns Creek ballfields – there’s a litany of services and amenities that could be provided and that’s basically what the Parks Parcel Tax does.”
The Parks Parcel Tax was cut down to $25 per household from the original $50 in 2012 during the height of the city’s financial struggle and the closure of the Catalyst mill. But Adams explained that bumping up the tax enables the city to do more with its parks.
Coun. Larry Samson questioned why city staff chose 2016 to implement the Parks tax increase and not start this year.
Ron Bowles, the city’s corporate services manager, admitted “there wasn’t a whole lot of science behind starting in one year versus another.”
Samson suggested council up the Parks Parcel Tax by $12 to $37 in 2015 and ease in towards the original $50.
Coun. Colleen Evans said she liked Samson’s recommendation.
“It’s an opportunity to introduce that and ease into something and ramp up into 2016,” Evans said.
“I would concur,” he said.
“Parks, recreation and culture has certainly been a priority for me, and they provide public facilities that really improve the health and welfare of our community. I like the idea of $12, that basically equates to a dollar (more) a month per household and that’s a pretty good investment in your community.”
But Coun. Charlie Cornfield disagreed that an increase to the Parks Parcel Tax was a good idea in 2015.
“I think right now we’re already facing a $48 increase for sewer and water fees, now we’re adding $12 on to that and we’re at $60,” Cornfield said. “I think it was very prudent of staff to suggest the increase in 2016 and that to me is ramping it up towards the former $50 contribution from before.”