Council begins work on provisional budget

Residential tax rate increase begins at four per cent, upkeep takes priority over growth

After several consecutive years of building large capital projects, the City of Nanaimo is shifting to a more maintenance-oriented budget.

City council got its first look at the provisional 2012 budget and 2012-2016 financial plan Monday night.

Al Kenning, Nanaimo’s city manager, said the 2012 budget is a stable one that mostly moves away from growth and centres on paying for future maintenance.

“We’re now focusing on repair and maintenance of buildings like the Nanaimo Ice Centre, Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, Oliver Woods Community Centre, rather than planning to build new facilities,” said Kenning. “We’re evolving into a position of upkeep.”

The city is responsible for about $2 billion worth of infrastructure, which includes about $1.2 billion in road, water and sewer infrastructure, with the balance in 45 larger city-owned facilities and dozens of smaller service buildings.

A residential tax-rate increase of four per cent is projected for 2012 due mostly to additional RCMP officers ($839,000), a portion of the cost of the new $10.7-million city annex under construction ($920,000), reduced casino revenue ($200,000), reduced building construction revenue ($177,000), and $100,000 for strategic planning.

There will also be a five-per cent increase in water rates to help pay for the $61-million South Fork water treatment facility and potentially a new dam within 10 years to meet demand of a growing population.

That means an average house assessment of $350,000 will see an increase of $71.41 for city taxes, a $15.83 increase in water rates and $7 for curbside garbage removal, bringing the total increase to $94.24.

“That’s where it sits now at first blush. We’ll have to see where council wants to take it,” said Mayor John Ruttan.

City staff noted that it is difficult to estimate final property tax rates now because of the amount collected, only 60 per cent is the city’s portion and other agencies the city collects on behalf of, such as the regional district, hospital and Vancouver Island public library, don’t set their rates until later.

For the 2011 budget, council whittled down the residential tax-rate increase from a projected 4.2 per cent to 2.5 per cent through service reductions.

Commercial tax-rate increases are projected at three per cent, while industrial rates will drop 20 per cent from last year’s level.

City reserves remain at around $90 million.

While the focus is generally status quo, Ruttan said there are still significant projects underway or scheduled, including the completion of the $10-million Bowen Road and Quarterway Bridge expansion, ongoing preparation for the South Forks water treatment facility expected to be completed in the spring of 2015, and a $5.4-million Boxwood Road connector project, scheduled to begin in 2012, that will be paid for mostly through development cost charges.

“We still have some massive projects ahead of us,” said Ruttan. “But still, the budget we have in front of us is still a cautious budget and it’s important we don’t spend any more than we absolutely have to.”

The tax rate bylaw must be adopted by May 15 under provincial law.

The public will have an opportunity to address council on any financial plan issues or concerns at scheduled  council meetings throughout January and February, or through an online forum at www.nanaimo.ca/residents under budgets and financial reports.

 

Total budget — $160.37 million

Operating expenditures — $118.9 million

Capital Expenditures — $41.4 million

 

Revenues from:

Property taxes — $86.2 million

Borrowing — $4.4 million

Other (DCCs, grants, service fees, etc. ) — 59.29 million

Transfers from reserves and surplus — $10 million

 

Budget priorities include:

Maintain high level of protective services (fire, police)

Maintain civic infrastructure

Improve water supply systems

Focus on energy reduction

Reduce homelessness

 

Upcoming capital projects:

Fire Station No. 6 (2013) $2.7 million

Police building expansion (2013) $8.5 million

City hall annex (2012) $10.7 million

Cliff McNabb Arena improvements (2012) $1.3 million

Maffeo Sutton Park improvements (2012) $3.1 million

Boxwood connector (2012) $5.4 million

 

 

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com