After eight hours of deliberations this year, the magic number produced was 1.53 per cent.
On Monday, Nov. 20, Salmon Arm council carried out what’s arguably its most important job, guiding where city dollars are directed, and how that will affect taxpayers.
The final tally: taxpayers will see a 1.53 per cent tax increase in 2018, translating into an increase of $23.31 for the owner of a $350,000 residential property, along with a 3.5 per cent or $8.10 increase in water user fees.
For a $500,000 business, it means paying $91.38 more in taxes in 2018, plus the 3.5 per cent water increase.
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The sewer user fees, the water and sewer frontage taxes, the transportation parcel tax and the garbage/recycling fees aren’t increasing.
The process began months earlier, with staff creating budgets and citizens providing their wishes.
When council started its deliberations Monday, staff’s budget featured a three per cent tax increase, which council members whittled away. The budget isn’t finalized until May.
In her opening comments to council, the only concerns the city’s Chief Financial Officer Monica Dalziel listed were about funding levels for asphaltic overlays as well as reserves for fire equipment and police vehicles. She pointed to a pavement management study updated in 2008 and reviewed in 2011 that recommended annual funding of $2.5 million to maintain the city’s current road rating of 78 per cent, which deteriorated from a rating of 90 per cent in 2000. The current budget is $940,000, which she said is “on the low side for a community of our size.”
Council decided to update the study and revisit the transportation parcel tax.
Although she said the reserve for fire equipment is “still significantly underfunded,” she said it will be adequate for purchases required in the next five years. Council increased the 2018 contribution by $10,000, as well as the police car reserve.
The new budget includes funding for two new positions: an $80,000 full-time administrative position at the pool to oversee scheduling and operations beginning June 1, as well as a capital works supervisor under the transportation budget to help with duties such as asset management – a now-common requirement to obtain grant funding.
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Asked for their highlights, council comments varied widely, but all thanked staff.
Coun. Louise Wallace Richmond said while there is never enough money, “community members should be confident that the work done by staff, beginning in August, is reflective of the official community plan, the strategic plan and the long term financial plan….”
Mayor Nancy Cooper remarked: “I am always impressed that we can fund transportation services – meaning road maintenance and sidewalks, fire protection in the form of new trucks, police services and RCMP building upgrades, airport improvements, recreation services, and park upgrades appropriately and still support many community requests, including: the Makerspace in the proposed new Innovation Centre, the SPCA, the covered structure for the park in Canoe, and so much more with a small tax increase.”
Coun. Alan Harrison described the budget as solid, and said everyone worked hard to meet the strategic plan objectives while reducing the tax increase to 1.53 per cent. His highlights included two environmentally friendly hybrid vehicles for the city; a three-year funding agreement with Roots and Blues; an increase in support for roads and streets maintenance; a new replacement fire engine; and increasing the West Bay Connector Trail reserve fund for the vision of a trail from Peter Jannick Park to the Mary Thomas Cultural Centre.
A total of $33,000 was transferred to the West Bay connector reserve fund from 50th Avenue NW walkway (Adams Lake Indian Band) fund, an untouched fund established about 10 years ago.
Coun. Chad Eliason opposed the transfer when it was proposed in previous years, saying the $33,000 was put aside in collaboration with the band and they should be consulted first. However, Mayor Nancy Cooper and Coun. Ken Jamieson said they haven’t yet consulted with the band, citing upheavals in governance. Eliason was absent from Monday’s meeting. Jamieson was alone in voting against the transfer.
Coun. Tim Lavery summed up his budget highlights by stating: “Rather than the final tax numbers, I’d use two words as a summary: prudent and strategic, amidst a context of significant future infrastructure demands.”
Lavery said he was pleased to see full support for the Innovation Centre Makerspace proposal as well as an upcoming rainbow crosswalk.