Comox council began the first step in a lengthy budget process Wednesday with the goal of lowering a potential four per cent tax increase.
Mayor Paul Ives stated changes to the 2012-2016 financial plan might not get the tax increase to 2.5 per cent, rather, more like 3.5 per cent.
“Three to four per cent is the general range in other communities, but we’ll wait for staff to come back (with their changes),” he said at the conclusion of the meeting.
In his report to council, Don Jacquest, director of finance for the town, stated core expenditures are increasing between one and two percent for 2012. A two per cent increase would mean the town would have to find $215,000 more revenue.
He also added another critical factor in the financial plan are the town’s proposed capitol expenditures.
In the past, large capital budgets were generally funded around $1 million per year from general revenue (property taxes).
This year, Jacquest said the town has focused on projects identified in the transportation study, with the total proposed capital expenditures from general revenue are more than $9 million for 2012-2016, averaging more than $1.8 million per year.
In the first of many meetings examining the draft financial plan, council passed a recommendation in the core operations to move the hiring of one RCMP officer who was scheduled to begin in April 2013 to 2014, which will save the town about $114,000.
Council also voted to remove $8,000 from security patrols.
In terms of culture, a motion was passed for Comox Museum and Archives to receive $25,000 a year throughout the five year plan, along with the Comox Valley Art Gallery to receive $5,000 a year for five years.
Following their request earlier this year, council also decided to consider a one-time grant of $15,000 towards the Sid Williams Theatre.
From the general fund revenue, Ives noted the goal is to keep up infrastructure while keeping taxes reasonable.
A motion was passed to take away $832,140 for sidewalks on Robb Road, and move it to 2017.
Other motions were passed to move around funds allocated for sidewalks and widening bike lanes through the plan, and staff will return in two weeks’ time with revisions.
Council will spend the next month revising and examining the budget, which does not have to be finalized until May.