Nanaimo city council passed the first three readings of its financial plan as part of its budgeting process for 2018.
City council decided to move forward with the 2018-2022 financial plan as it works toward next spring’s 2018 budget. Residents are now looking at a 2.7-per cent property tax increase; the previously announced figure of 2.6 per cent was nudged up mostly due to a recent decision on funding downtown security, said Victor Mema, the city’s chief financial officer.
Coun. Bill Bestwick said asset management and staff wage increases ensured a property tax increase of at least two per cent.
“So here we are, we’re really talking about 0.6 per cent that we adjudicate and deliberate on to keep the budget where it is,” he said. “And I’m certain that many people here at this table would like it to be significantly more than that, and I know that there’s some people here that would like some of the money, the way that we spend it, spent differently.”
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Coun. Ian Thorpe called it a “minimal budget,” said the increased spending on programs and services doesn’t even cover the cost of inflation and said he isn’t sure he would support future budgets calling for smaller spending increases.
Coun. Jim Kipp pointed to a coming infrastructure deficit and said the city needs to control spending in a time of an economic downturn and higher property assessments.
“We can spend a lot more, but people have to pay for it,” he said. “So I have trouble with the budget just continuing to grow, just continuing to grow and I don’t see a lot of other services we’re getting.”
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Coun. Sheryl Armstrong said staff in various city departments came up with doable priorities.
“We looked at must-haves, nice-to-haves, and I believe that the budget prioritizes the must-haves,” she said.
The only council member to vote against the three readings of the financial plan was Coun. Diane Brennan, who said she didn’t see enough in the budget to address issues such as poverty and homelessness.
“The urban problems that we’re seeing moving from a small town into a big town, I see there are lots of problems identified when we talk to our constituents and citizens, but I see very little in this budget,” Brennan said. “I see a very minor tip of the hat to the issues that we face.”
Council will still need to adopt the financial plan in the new year. The 2018 budget doesn’t need to be adopted until late spring.