Following another year marked by challenging economic times both locally and globally, Nelson mayor John Dooley and city council say they are very pleased with the outcome of 2014’s budgetary process, which will see a proposed tax increase of just 1.5 per cent — half a percent lower than 2013.
The city has spent the past six weeks pouring over its $40 million budget, in search of cost savings and ways to increase the size and stability of the city’s reserves.
Touting financial sustainability, stewardship and taxpayer value as the strong points of this year’s budget, mayor Dooley says our revenues and reserves are in good shape, and expenditures are well under control, despite tough economic outlooks abroad.
“We’ve seen some fairly tough times since the latest recession began, starting with the financial sector crisis of 2007,” says Dooley, “but we’ve done very well in spite of that.”
“Taxpayers have entrusted us to take care of the city’s best interests, and I think council’s done an absolutely great job of stewarding Nelson’s investments over the last few years.”
Noting that the city manages nearly $100 million in building and real estate assets, the Mayor pointed to the establishment of a building maintenance manager’s position as one example of council’s successful efforts to keep the city’s financial house in order.
“The new position is a responsible means by which to ensure those considerable assets are taken care of day in and day out. And going further, in addition to the building manager’s position we’ve also implemented a building reserve fund, as of last year.”
The Mayor adds that any borrowing the city has taken on in the last three years is being re-paid by earnings generated by the utilities, not by taxation.
“We have been managing our debt and building reserves so that we can upgrade and improve our infrastructure without these projects having any impact on taxation. So those debts are being paid back and covered by revenues generated by our utilities, not by taxpayers.”
“We’re ensuring our community has good planning in place right across the board, that we’re in good financial shape and in no way fiscally vulnerable,” the Mayor adds. “I’ve seen it time and time again, where communities haven’t had reserves in place, and have had to sell off their vital assets just to pay the bills. If there are any unexpected rainy days ahead, we’re prepared.”
Before Nelson city council makes its final decision on the proposed 2014 budget, all members of the public will be able to share their thoughts and learn more about the Nelson’s financial standing at the 2014 Budget Open House, slated for Thursday, February 27 at the Nelson Library. Staff will be available to answer questions from the public, from 1 to 4 p.m., then from 6 to 8 p.m. There will be a formal presentation at 7 p.m.
The 1.5 per cent increase will create a modest amount of additional revenue — about $105,000.
For example, the owner of a $300,000 assessed home would incur an additional $1.60 cost per month, or $19 a year. If you’re the owner of a $900,000 assessed commercial property, the proposed increase amounts to an additional $10.41 per month, or $125 annually.
Nelson’s chief financial officer, Colin McClure, says city staff has worked hard to eliminate any increases to city expenses, and have also provided new revenue opportunities — both efforts aimed at minimizing the tax increase this year.
“And if we stay the course,” says McClure, “we should be able to keep any future tax hikes in line with inflation,” noting that this is the second consecutive year in which Nelson residents are seeing a very limited increase in their municipal tax rate.
Council will make its final decision on the proposed 2013 budget with their first three readings of the budget bylaw, April 8, at their regularly scheduled council meeting.