Deliberations are far from done, but the city is currently looking at a two per cent increase in taxes for Parksville homeowners this year.
Last year, when all the taxing authorities were factored in (school district, etc.), the 2.5 per cent tax increase on the average home in the city (assessed at $295,000) was $35. If city council doesn’t change much by the end of next month, it looks like city homeowners will face a similar increase this year.
The increase includes provisions for borrowing charges on the new water treatment and storage facilities, although the fate of that project and its ultimate cost to taxpayers, remains unknown.
Council got to some nuts and bolts of the budget during public deliberations Thursday night, focussing on special requests and some big-ticket items requested by staff.
The biggest item to consider, the construction of a $600,000 building for archival records storage, was squashed unanimously by council on Thursday night.
“If we don’t do this we are taking a risk,” said Mayor Marc Lefebvre. “At some point we are going to have to bite the bullet.”
“Right now we are in a difficult financial situation,” said Coun. Sue Powell. “I need to be convinced.”
“We don’t have $600,000 to spend,” said Coun. Leanne Salter. “I can’t believe this is even in the budget.”
“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” said Coun. Kirk Oates. “But I’m not sure this is when.”
Attempts by staff to add two positions to their ranks were also rebuffed by council on Thursday night. Council has been presented information in the past month showing the need for both an additional bylaw enforcement officer (plus the cost of a new vehicle for the officer) and a full-time health and safety officer.
Staff had explained bylaw enforcement files are piling up and response times are lengthening. Chief Administrative Officer Fred Manson also explained that health and safety files and issues — much of which mandated for action by the provincial government — are being done off the corner of senior staff’s desk.
Council has squashed the notion of a new bylaw officer and vehicle entirely and on Thursday night they asked staff to come back with less expensive options for the health and safety officer, perhaps a part-time position. Those two measures shaved roughly $200,000 off the 2015 expenditures side of the budget.
Council did approve some less-expensive expenditures on Thursday night, but not without some debate. The Vancouver Island North Film Commission will get $2,500 from the city this year.
“They have spent money in this community and I think we should be part of that,” said Coun. Teresa Patterson.
“Many other communities in the area are contributing and I think we should do our part as well,” said Coun. Mary Beil.
Council passed the motion to provide the film commission with $2,500 in a 6-1 vote, with Coun. Al Greir opposed.
The Vancouver Island Tribute Festival will get $1,000 from council this year and Greir, consistently opposed to this type of request over the years, was in favour of this one, noting the success of the inaugural festival last year and saying he believed it would be the last year the festival would need to ask for financial help.
Council still needs to make final decisions on a number of other issues in the budget — and give final approval to the entire budget — including increases to water and sewer rates and the possibility of establishing user fees for sports fields and Community Park.