Nanaimo city councillors moved one step closer to adopting the city’s five-year financial plan.
Councillors voted to recommend an updated version of the 2018-2022 financial plan during a finance an audit committee meeting on Wednesday morning.
During a finance and audit committee meeting last week, councillors made changes to the proposed budget, including adding a communications director and reducing their budget estimate for the RCMP contract by $247,081. The communications director comes with an annual salary of approximately $130,000.
Although the budget for the RCMP was reduced, roughly $247,081 in surplus from 2017 has been allocated into a reserve fund that can be used in the event that the RCMP contract goes over budget.
The city is projecting $180 million in revenues for 2018, with more than 75 per cent coming from property taxes and user fees.
Wendy Fulla, the city’s manager of business asset and financial planning, told councillors that those changes ended up reducing the potential property tax hike by 0.17 per cent.
Residents had been faced with a 3.18 per cent tax increase in 2018 and a projected 2.74 per cent tax increase in 2019.
“We are now at a 3.01 per cent property tax increase for 2018. 2019 has gone up to 3.07 and the remaining three years have remained the same,” she said. “So, the impact on a typical house went down $3 to $59.”
Speaking to the News Bulletin afterward, Fulla said councillors can still make changes to the financial plan during the first three readings prior to adoption.
“Should council not wish to pass the budget and want further changes, that is definitely within their prerogative,” she said. “They could make recommendations back to staff to change the financial plan bylaw. Likely then that would require us to add another council meeting because we must pass the financial play bylaw by May 15.”
Fulla said it’s important for taxpayers to understand that of the 3.01 per cent proposed property tax increase, one per cent is for asset management reserve and 2.01 per cent is used to help fund city services. She said although the city has not reached an agreement with CUPE, money has been set aside for when that happens and it won’t result in a tax increase.
The five-year financial plan has been in the works for months. A provisional budget was brought forward and adopted by councillors back in January, but since February, both Victor Mema, the city’s chief financial officer and Tracy Samra, the city’s chief administrative officer, have gone on leave.
With the CFO on leave since March, Fulla said one challenge has been wanting to give council all the correct information, but not knowing how much they already know about the budget.
“Because I don’t sit at the senior management table and I wasn’t at the in-camera finance and audit committee meetings, I don’t necessarily know what was all previously disclosed to council,” she said. “That’s probably the biggest challenge, wanting to make sure we give full disclosure … so that when they pass the final budget they can feel comfortable.”
The city recently began accepting applications for an interim chief administrative officer, but no money has been allocated in the budget for the interim position according to Fulla.
Council will vote on the first three readings of the financial plan on April 23.