With the exception of Mayor Larry Jangula and Coun. Manno Theos, Courtenay council approved a financial plan bylaw for 2018-2022.
Theos takes issue with a proposed tax requisition increasing from $24 million to $31 million over five years, while reserves and surpluses drop from $14 million to $3 million.
“Is this sustainable for any community?” Theos said at the April 16 meeting. “At some point you’re going to run out of that surplus and reserves, and you’re going to be looking at this huge budget increase from the 2018 numbers, and saying, “How do we pay for it next?’ And if you don’t have an answer for that, it’s very difficult to support this plan, if not impossible.”
Jangula supported Theos’s observations.
“Our budget has gone up $4 million this year,” he said. “That really concerns people, and it concerns me.”
In recent years, Jangula said taxes that have been passed onto Courtenay residents do not all come from the City.
“It’s the bottom line tax that people look at. It’s from school board, regional district. For many people, in the last five years it’s been a 40 per cent increase. For some businesses it’s been 150. We continue to go down that path.
“It’s a disaster.”
Coun. Bob Wells said if council considers doing anything differently, it will mean a reduction in services.
David Frisch, noting escalating infrastructure costs, concurs that council is investing in the community “more heavily” than in previous years.
“When we see these increases in taxation, I think people should understand that we are trying to provide great value in water, sewer, roads and recreational services,” Frisch said. “I’m in favour of the budget. I’m confident that these numbers are solid.”
Theos feels infrastructure services have suffered because the City has beefed up its staffing levels.
“If we just hired a bunch of people in the last year, why have we not increased that budget so we can get the job done? We decreased it because of a lack of money.”
Brian Parschauer, director of financial services, notes that $3.375 million is being transferred to reserves.
“Those are going to fund our capital projects,” he said, noting the number appears to be higher because Building Canada and gas tax funds are being used to pay for capital projects.
In terms of road improvements, Jangula feels the City has been losing ground over the last decade because crews are only paving about a kilometre a year.
“This is a ticking time bomb,” he said. “We have all this area that needs to be paved, and no money to pave it.”
Last year, the City paved about 35,000 square metres of road, which cost about $1.54 million, said Trevor Kushner, director of public works. This year’s proposal is to pave 29,000 square metres for $1.1 million. Kushner notes that paving involves a large amount of pre-work. Some roads don’t require utility replacements for 15-20 years, he added.
The City paved nearly nine lane kilometres last year. This year, at 17th Street, Kushner said crews will lay down four inches of asphalt, which is double of what a residential or collector road would have.
Along with Wells and Frisch, Couns. Doug Hillian, Rebecca Lennox and Erik Eriksson approved the financial plan bylaw.
The tax rate bylaw will be presented at a special council meeting, Monday, April 30. Council will consider adoption May 7. The property tax increase being proposed for 2018 is 1.5 per cent, which is roughly a $36 impact to the average homeowner, based on an average assessed property value of $440,000.