EDITORIAL: Pricey wish list in Parksville

It's early days and city council will likely hack away at the spending proposals in this 2016-2020 financial plan

It’s the first Christmas wish list of the year and Santa is going to need a much bigger sled.

Parksville city staff members seem to have taken the federal election result to heart. Let’s see, the country gave a majority government to a party and leader who is OK with deficits and spending. The city can’t legally run a deficit, but staff have got the spending part down pat.

It’s a wish list, to be sure. Santa doesn’t generally bring everything that’s requested. And staff know political pressures will whittle away at their gift list. However, they seem to be following a theory that goes something like this: ask for so much that you’ll get a few things you wanted.

Here’s a look at some of the things that are currently in the 2016 budget and/or the 2016-2020 financial plan, documents that don’t need final approval from city council until May of next year:

• Staff. Lots of new staff. The lunch room and parking facilities might have to be expanded. Two bylaw enforcement officers at roughly $88,000/year; a human resources advisor at $90,000/year; an engineering technician ($81,000); both a casual and a full-time position at the fire hall (total of about $98,000/year) and an IT summer student in 2017 ($24,000).

• Still with staff, succession planning is important and the city is about to lose two of its key people to retirement — CAO Fred Manson and Fire Chief Doug Banks. The 2016 budget includes a whopping $50,000 for the CAO succession plan and the city has already approved $18,000 for a succession plan in 2015 for the fire chief and in 2016 the fire chief will be paid $55,000 for unused vacation pay.

• Um, still with staff, training is important. There’s admin training, HR training, health and wellness initiatives, an Insights facilitator and more for about $26,000 — in 2016 alone.

• The 2016 budget alone calls for $636,000 in capital spending, including a training tower for the fire department ($200,000) and a cistern system for Community Park ($280,000). Oh, and the new bylaw officer will need a vehicle, of course ($36,000).

This list just scratches the surface of staff’s 2016-2020 wish list. How do they propose this is all paid for? A 4.5 per cent tax increase in 2016 and four per cent in years 2017-2020.

It could be argued the city is playing catch-up. The 2015 tax increase was 1.5 per cent, which barely covers inflation. All of these wish-list items above can be justified, we’re sure, but we are disappointed some much-talked-about issues seem to be getting no attention, things like serious downtown revitalization, the city-owned land at Alberni Highway/Jensen and homeless/affordable housing concerns.

It’s like city staff wants to dictate what’s important in Parksville — those pesky politicians and the issues they discuss during that bothersome thing called an election don’t matter.

— Editorial by John Harding