As in previous years, we are presenting the city budget for 2011 with some cost projections into the future, a difficult process along with pressure to reduce taxes and at the same time maintain current public service levels for the city.
Since we received the water and sewer master plan on the condition of the water and sewer infrastructure, we have had to project a rate increase over five years to cover cost of repairs and upgrades to the systems. 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 a dividend from Nelson Hydro.
In order to keep up with inflation, planning, a building maintenance reserve and maintaining current city public services, there is a recommended property tax increase of two per cent which will cover, approximately, the current rate of inflation. It should also be noted that the city collects other taxes on the tax statement for the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s taxable services. Taking into consideration public input, the non-domestic animal control contract will be renewed for 2011.
Our department heads, staff and employees in operations, Nelson Hydro, Nelson police and fire departments, library, youth centre, etc, have been very fiscally responsible with taxpayers’ money, trying to keeping costs down while continuing to provide valuable public services. Without an industry, all public employees, making decent wages, do buy goods and services, as well as homes and vehicles in our community.
Some citizens at the public meeting pointed out the fact that there is an increase of administration staff over the last few years. Well this has been a process of bringing the city administration computer network and staff into the modern age of computer filing and public information systems. Currently with new programs for information, record filing, bylaw updates have required more work. Along with these updates there are new provincial requirement for financial budgets, added to freedom of information requests, all of which has required an upgrade to computer software and computer security systems. All this has resulted in an increase in workload which requires more staff in administration and technical services.
Also, because of an increase in transit costs from the new city buses (only the large buses available), purchased from BC Transit, there will be a review of all aspects of the city bus system, with BC Transit, to try to find savings.
Unfortunately, there are current costs that are difficult to budget for, such as snow removal and plowing. The overall budget was presented to the public at the council meeting on Monday. So while it is unfortunate that city taxes are projected to increase by two per cent, it is needed to cover inflation, build up reserves, and cover unexpected costs.
Robin Cherbo is a Nelson city councillor who shares column space in the Star with his council colleagues.