Following their first look at the 2016 – 2020 financial plan, Comox council is considering a 2.7 per cent general tax increase per annum, but is hoping to find ways to reduce it slightly.
Director of Finance Don Jacquest presented council the draft plan at Wednesday’s committee of the whole meeting.
Other highlights include unchanged marina revenues for 2016; a $30,000 per annum contribution to the homelessness initiative; a $250,000 contribution to the Public Safety Reserve; an increase to core services in Public Works to budget for an engineering tech position and two major debt issues that will mature during the financial plan (the Comox Library in 2017 and the Comox Recreation expansion in 2018).
“In 2018, we will generally be debt-free. I really have to praise council on their steadfast account,” noted Jacquest, who added there will be a shift from debt replacement to addressing capital needs.
Capital expenditures total almost $26 million over five years, and the Town gets $7.4 million in general property tax, he explained.
To afford this much investment in infrastructure, the town pursues grants and community partnerships.
Council directed staff to delete a proposed Balmoral Avenue/golf course sidewalk project, and another draft of the budget will return to the next committee of the whole meeting set for Feb. 10.
“A 2.7 per cent (tax increase) is higher than I like but I get it. If we can find ways to reduce it, that would make me happy,” said Coun. Ken Grant.
Mayor Paul Ives asked if the Town could reduce its reserve contribution if the amount could go down to 2.6 per cent.
“In 2017, it would cost the Town $125,000. It gets expensive very quickly,” noted Jacquest.
Coun. Barbara Price added she “could live with 2.7 per cent.”
“We have so little debt that is our strength, but if we can come up with savings that would be a plus.”
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An amount of $60,000 has been set aside in the budget for legal fees for an issue the Town is initiating, explained Jacquest to The Record. He noted he could not disclose further information, but told council a proposed trial date has been set, and the issue will be addressed in the spring.