January is quickly coming to a close so this is one last chance to wish everyone a Happy New Year! It constantly amazes me how quickly time passes. It is hard to believe this council has already been sitting for 13 months. Council has the 2015 budget planning under our belts and with that experience we are well into the 2016 budget process.
Back in November we started budget deliberations to determine the coming year’s water and sewer rates. Asset management is an area all councillors as well as the mayor agree is our No. 1 priority. In fact it is the first item on our strategic plan. We cannot allow our infrastructure to fall into disrepair.
Like owning a home, it is better to fix the leaky faucet now than to come home and find the basement flooded.In years long past these utilities were not given adequate attention. We are finally catching up with much-needed repairs of our aging infrastructure and to rebuild our water and sewer reserve funds. Yes, you will see increases in your water and sewer bill when it comes in February, but we have maintained the increases at the 2015 level, two per cent (sewer) and three per cent (water).
Next up was Nelson Hydro, the jewel in Nelson’s corporate crown. We have now had three readings of the electrical utility amendment bylaw. After significant debate council agreed to a 3.8 per cent rate increase in electrical rates for all classes, which will come into effect April 1.
Final reading will occur in the next few weeks. The importance of this utility cannot be underestimated. NelsonHydro pays the City of Nelson a yearly dividend that helps with the costs of city operations. This year the dividend is expected to be $2.7 million. This is the equivalent of a 36 per cent property tax increase. We need to acknowledge the foresight of a long ago council that decided to venture into the hydro business.
Last week, at the committee of the whole meeting, we received presentations from a number of organizations that the city supports financially. Some organizations — such as the Chamber of Commerce/visitors centre and Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership — were requesting status quo funding while others were looking for inflationary increases. Overall the request for funding increases ranged from $1,150 to $20,000.
We still have two more days, today and Feb. 2, set aside for budget deliberations. These meeting are open to the public and held in council chambers from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The budget open house is tentatively set for Feb. 18 in the new Chamber of Commerce board room at the CPR station. The final budget will be posted on the city website, nelson.ca, before the end of March.
One last note — winter is still going to be here for a while yet. When driving please consider your safety and the safety of others. Take a few extra minutes to make sure you clear all the snow off your car before starting your drive. I think many have seen the Twitter post of the driver who was fined for having “no clear view” (check it out at twitter.com/OPP_wr — can’t make this stuff up).
As always, I am keen to hear your thoughts and concerns. My email address is email@example.com.
Nelson city councillor Janice Morrison shares this space weekly with her council colleagues.
(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect location for the Feb. 18 budget open house.)