Expensive proposals in Parksville

Preliminary budget for 2016 and proposed financial plan for 2016-2020 has some eyebrow raising spending items

An all-weather sports field for $2 million. Rainwater-gathering cisterns for $560,000. An assistant for the fire department, a couple of bylaw officers and a few more new staff members for at least $400,000/year in total salaries.

These are just some of the big-ticket items Parksville city council saw for the fist time last week as it works on a budget for 2016 and beyond.

Finance manager Pamela Lovegrove presented council with a draft provisional financial plan for the years 2016-2020 on Wednesday that calls for a 4.5 per cent tax increase in 2016 and four per cent in the following four years.

Parksville property owners saw a 1.5 per cent tax increase in 2015. A 4.5 per cent increase would mean an average homeowner in the city would pay about $60 more in property taxes in 2016 than in 2015.

The numbers — and the amount of spending on various items included in this draft — are certain to change as council digs into the details over the next few months. The 2016 budget doesn’t have to be finalized until May 16, 2016.

Members of the public were invited to ask questions and provide input at Wednesday’s meeting — only two did from a gallery of six people.

There will be a number of opportunities for the public to provide input on the 2016 budget in the months ahead. The next chance will be Nov. 12 (6 p.m. at city hall).

Aside from the 4.5 per cent tax increase, a number of items in the 2016 draft budget caught the attention of councillors and others in attendance.

The proposed capital spending program totals $636,000 and includes a training tower for the fire department ($200,000), a Community Park sports field cistern ($280,000) and sidewalk refurbishment for Highway 19A/Weld Street ($95,000).

The proposed operating spending package totals $364,000 and includes the addition of a bylaw officer ($89,000/year), the introduction of stand-by pay for the fire department’s three professional officers ($36,500) and the demolition of a city-owned house on McVickers Street ($40,000).

Looking past 2016, the provisional financial plan includes the addition of an assistant at the fire hall in 2017 ($84,000/year), the addition of both a human resources advisor ($90,000/year) and engineering technician ($81,185/year) in 2018 and a clubhouse for Community Park ($500,000) in 2020. Staff even added a $2 million all-weather playing field in the plan for 2024.

Mayor Marc Lefebvre cautioned council and the public about the early-days nature of this budget process.

“This is the first meeting, there will be others, so it’s not a do-or-die thing this evening,” said the mayor.

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