Despite the deterioration of the city’s industrial tax base, Campbell River’s financial picture looks positive when compared to municipalities of similar size.
The city recently participated in a core service review for Mission which involved comparing itself with Campbell River, Vernon, Penticton, Langford and North Cowichan.
The results of the review, conducted by consulting firm Acton, were surprising.
“For this study, you will note that the financial metrics of Campbell River as a comparable to the other cities is very positive,” said City Manager Andy Laidlaw. “In consideration of the significant losses of industrial tax revenue (due to the closure of Catalyst mill) over the last several years, Campbell River finds itself comparatively well-positioned in relation to the other cities.”
In arguably the most important statistic, Campbell River’s long-term outstanding debt is well below average.
“Not only has Campbell River remained significantly below average in terms of (its) total long-term debt outstanding, but it has also been declining since 2008 while the average has increased,” writes Laidlaw in his report to council. “Campbell River currently has the lowest total long-term debt outstanding of all the comparators.”
In 2008, the city’s debt sat at $15 million but by 2011 the long-term debt was down to about $8 million.
In comparison, the average of the other four communities combined was $31 million in 2008 and $34 million by 2011.
And in contrast to Mayor Walter Jakeway’s cries during his 2011 election campaign that the city engages in too much wasteful spending, Campbell River’s expenditures per capita are in line with other similar-sized communities.
In 2009, the city’s expenditures per capita decreased from $1.8 million to $1.4 million but have increased slightly every year since.
However, as Laidlaw points out, rates have remained average each year.
In 2010, Campbell River’s expenditures per capita were $1.5 million while in 2011 they were $1.6 million.
Jakeway had said during his mayoral bid last fall that the city was spending too much, which was contributing to high taxes.
“I think Campbell River does not have a revenue problem, it has a spending problem,” he said at the time.
The Acton study also found Campbell River’s financial assets to liabilities ratio to be higher than average at 1.6 in 2011, compared to the average of 0.8.
The city’s tangible capital assets was below average in 2011 at $201 million while the average sat at $351 million and the city’s total government transfers to revenue ratio is on the rise.
In 2011, Campbell River’s government transfers to total revenue was at a rate of 0.2, while the average was just above 0.1.