Chief financial officer Colin McClure delivered a formal presentation on the budget at the library on Thursday evening.

Chief financial officer Colin McClure delivered a formal presentation on the budget at the library on Thursday evening.

Hiring third bylaw officer among City of Nelson budget priorities

The library and community groups also stand to benefit from the City of Nelson's 2014 provisional budget

The City of Nelson’s 2014 provisional budget has earmarked funds for hiring a third bylaw officer, removing invasive weed, paying election expenses, and increasing the city’s contribution to the library and community groups.

The proposed 1.5 per cent residential tax increase would cover these new costs, while maintaining the existing service levels and adding to infrastructure reserve funds.

A sparsely attended Budget Open House at the Nelson Public Library on Thursday offered residents a chance to hear about what’s planned for the city in 2014 and provide feedback on the draft financial plan.

Chief financial officer Colin McClure delivered a formal presentation on the budget that outlines where the city’s nearly $40 million in operating revenue comes from and how it’s spent.

The tax increase would mean an additional $105,000 for the city. The budget will also benefit from $265,000 in new revenue from: growth in the dividend paid by Nelson Hydro ($100,000), property taxes on previously undeveloped lots ($85,000), collecting a fee-for-service when Nelson Police Department to holds prisoners at for the RCMP or Canada Border Services ($60,000), and a return HST changed on parking meter revenue ($20,000).

“The city doesn’t want to increase taxes and the hope is that by maintaining strong reserve funds, there will come a time when we only have to make inflationary increases,” McClure explained.

For example, the city’s parking meter revenue goes into a fund for downtown beautification and road paving and this year will be used to create two new four-hour parking zones — one at Victoria and Falls streets and the other at the foot of Hall Street.

“This will allow people to enjoy our downtown and waterfront areas without having to keep running back to their vehicles to plug the meter,” McClure said.

Reserves will also be used to start work on the Hall Street corridor, between IODE park and the entrance to the Nelson and District Community Complex.

“That’s a major capital project that will be funded through reserves, rather than tax dollars,” McClure said, explaining that it’s best to fund one-off projects through grants or reserves while longer-term expenses, like hiring new staff, need a reliable funding source like tax revenue.

The only new position being created at city hall is for a third, half-time bylaw officer (paid $40,000), who will help enforce some of the new fines introduced last fall for things like smoking in restricted areas or having unsightly properties.

Elsewhere, an additional $32,000 will go to funding the library and community groups. And $20,000 will be spend on November’s municipal elections — an expense that will being coming up less frequently because local government terms are being increased to four years.

A joint project with Selkirk College that will see students removing invasive weeds from parks will cost $7,000, which McClure said is a good deal for Nelson because it would be much more expensive to have city staff doing that work.

Anyone with questions or feedback on the budget is encouraged to write the city at budget@nelson.ca.

Council will make its final decision on the proposed 2014 budget with their first three readings of the budget bylaw, April 8, at their regularly scheduled council meeting.