Courtenay council

Courtenay budget discussions lean towards 3.22 per cent increase

Courtenay council has approved a 2020-2024 financial plan that calls for a 3.22 per cent property tax increase, which would mean a $46 increase for the owner of a property valued at $453,000. This is the average assessed value of a single-family property in Courtenay, according to BC Assessment.

The 3.22 per cent increase includes 2.72 per cent for general operations and debt servicing. The remaining .5 per cent is related to the Infrastructure Renewal Reserve Levy. The levy would have been proposed as a 1.5 per cent tax increase but was reduced to .5 and offset with gaming funds.

Council has until May 15 to adopt the 2020 budget bylaw.

The 2020 financial plan proposes $6,253,700 million in planned capital expenditures, excluding debt servicing cost.

The lone member opposed to the plan was Coun. Manno Theos, who is concerned about over-taxation. He notes $9,418,000 budgeted for protective services is a significant bump from the $8,735,100 budgeted in 2019.

“I’m worried we’re in an over-taxation period,” Theos said at Monday’s meeting. “More challenging even for commercial in our community, that they’re going to be faced with more challenges than residential citizens.”

Theos is concerned that next year’ budget will show a surplus in protective services. He feels $9 million would suffice.

Along with the police contract, protective services includes fire services, bylaw enforcement and other costs. The increase is largely related to expected reduced vacancies at the detachment in 2020 and is being partially funded with prior year surplus from previous vacancies.

“We’re fortunate to have the resources through our taxpayers, primarily, to provide services,” Coun. Doug Hillian said. “It’s inevitable that taxes will go up somewhat each year unless we come into some sort of windfall.”

Coun. David Frisch expressed frustration about $130,000 budgeted for cycling projects, including $30,000 for a painted buffered bike lane as per council’s adopted Transportation Master Plan & Cycling Network Plan on 17th Street from McPhee to Cliffe avenues.

“A protected bike lane…is literally moving the parking from one side to the other,” Frisch said. “The lines, the widths, it’s all the same. To hold it up another year, really frustrates me.

“In future budgets, I think we should be allocating significant amounts of money to pedestrian and cycling infrastructure in five-year plans, so that when it comes around, it’s just a matter of figuring out which projects make sense.”

Coun. Wendy Morin supports the idea of considering more pedestrian infrastructure in the future.

As for this year’s budget, she notes the tax rate has dropped from 3.95 per cent since council discussed the matter last week.

“It’s (budget) not perfect but it’s pretty good,” Mayor Bob Wells said. “We’re looking for ways to make sure that we’re being as responsible as possible.”

For more information on the 2020-2024 Financial Plan, visit www.courtenay.ca/financialplan

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