COLUMN: Why the City of Nelson’s costs are going up

From city councillor Robin Cherbo....

As in previous years, we are presenting the city budget for 2017 with some cost projections into the future. It is a difficult process with pressure to reduce expenses and at the same time maintains the current spending on infrastructure and public service levels.

It is important for the public to be aware and have an understanding of the cost pressures the city is under. We are fortunate that the city receives funds from other revenue sources besides property taxes, such as federal and provincial grants, gas tax, highway fines, including over two and a haft million dividend from Nelson Hydro.

There has been a projection of an increase in fees and parking meters of which the money goes to improvement of roads and sidewalks that continue to increase in cost.

The city has obtained a ‘hot patch’ machine to reduce the cost of pavement repairs as soon as the weather changes to allow for patching. Spending has increased slightly in order to keep up with inflation, construction planning, and building maintenance reserves and to maintain the current funding levels.

To continue the funding levels, including the city public services, there is a recommended property tax increase which will cover a shortfall in current budget projections.

It should also be noted that the city also collects other taxes on the June tax statement for the Regional District ofCentral Kootenay taxable services. Since the city developed the Water and Sewer Master Plan to improve the condition of the water and sewer infrastructure, we have had to project a higher rate increase over five years to cover cost of repairs and upgrades.

Now we are able to reduce the projected increases because of the upgrades to the water and sewer pipes have come in with lower expenditures for reline the pipes.

Our department heads, staff and employees in operations, Nelson Hydro, Nelson Police and Fire Departments,Library, and Youth Centre, etc., have been fiscally responsible with finances, trying to keeping costs down, while continuing to provide valuable public services. Without a corporate industries’ financial input, all local spending including public employees’ wages, do buy goods and services in our community to the benefit of the local economy.

A lot of work has been done in a process of bringing the city administration computer networks and staff into the modern age of computer filing and public information systems.

Currently with new programs for information, record filing, by-law updates, have required more staff work. Along with these updates there are new provincial requirements for audits of financial budgets, added to freedom of information requests, all of which has required upgrades to computer software programs and computer security systems.

This has resulted in an increase in workload which requires more effort from administration and technical services.

Also, because of a previous increase in transit costs for the city buses, fuel etc., there has been a review of all aspects of the city bus system, with BC Transit, with some changes to routes and adding small busses to try to find cost efficiencies.

Unfortunately, there are current costs that are difficult to budget for, for example the snow removal and plowing which has seen an increase of spending compared to previous years. The overall budget was presented to the public at the Chamber of Commerce boardroom in February, unfortunately with only about a dozen people from the public in attendance for review and to ask questions. So while it is regrettable that city taxes are projected to increase, the funds are needed to cover inflation, maintenance, public services and to build up reserve funds for future expenses.

 

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