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District of Lantzville manages to whittle budget down to 0% tax increase

Budget deliberations started with recommended 11% property tax increase
Lantzville District Hall. (News Bulletin file photo)

After a long winter consisting of several lengthy financial meetings, Lantzville residents will not see an increase in property taxes this year.

Commendations went around the table during the March 22 meeting as district council unanimously passed third reading of the 2023-27 financial plan after whittling down the initial proposed tax increase of 11 per cent recommended by staff in December.

“I see a scenario where [council] came together on a budget where not everyone got everything they wanted and not everyone got nothing they wanted,” said Coun. Jonathan Lerner. “I would say that zero per cent sends a message that we genuinely care about the tough times people are experiencing financially right now … I want to reiterate that zero per cent doesn’t mean that zero is happening in this budget. There’s a lot happening in the community, and I look forward to seeing it come to fruition.”

Mayor Mark Swain agreed, adding “it’s not always just a zero per cent tax increase” and that work still needs to be done to ensure the district is properly funded moving forward.

To achieve the zero per cent increase, the biggest cuts included removing several hefty one-time project items, such as a road network and traffic master plan, a parks master plan and more, totalling a reduction of $230,000. Cuts were also made to the police reserve, the parkland capital reserve, and the hiring of a parks temporary seasonal employee, totalling an additional reduction of $109,800.

The financial plan also saw extra hours for bylaw negated, as well as a reduction for maintenance and building repairs for the municipal building and Costin Hall. Costs for office equipment purchases and supplies were also cut down, and the increased portion of janitorial services will be covered by the COVID relief fund for 2023, where applicable.

In regards to additional one-time project costs, emergency preparedness and response and emergency operations kits reduced the budget by an additional $36,000, to be re-examined next year.

“I feel that 2023 is the year to tighten our belts and reassess our spending priorities,” said Coun. Joan Jones during a February budget meeting.

Also up for consideration in this year’s budget was the shift of the district’s fire chief to full-time, which originally came with the recommendation of a $19,100 increase. During February discussions, council had initially considered keeping the fire chief at less than full-time; however, after other considerations, and several community members speaking out against the notion – some noting concerns over training and record-keeping – council passed the motion to approve the fire chief going full-time, as of Sept. 1, with the increase being funded through the COVID relief grant.

“This is a budget of the people,” said Coun. Ian Savage at the March 22 meeting. “And this puts residents’ interests as priority one. So, in spite of keeping the tax increase to zero, however, we’ve increased the road infrastructure contributions to that reserve up to $680,000 this year. That’s an increase and in fact, every reserve fund for infrastructure is the same or has been increased. So that’s the other side of this.”

In addition, a motion passed during the March 22 meeting allows the District of Lantzville’s accumulated general operating surplus reserve fund to be used to balance the annual budget including both operational and capital project expenditures as determined by council.

READ MORE: Proposed Lantzville financial plan would require 11% property tax increase

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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