Residents living in the District of Lantzville will see an increase in their property taxes next year.
Lantzville councillors voted 4-2 in favour of adopting the 2018-2022 financial plan bylaw. As a result, residents will be hit with a 5.4 per cent property tax increase next year.
Contributing to the property tax hike was an increase in administrative staffing hours as well as councillors’ decision to increase the district’s 2018 legal budget from $33,000 to $65,000.
Among the expenses approved for next year include $70,000 for economic development and branding, $45,000 to conduct a service capacity review, $30,000 to install a new phone system, $15,000 to upgrade the district’s website and $11,849 to replace and upgrade the council chamber’s audio and video recording equipment.
Beyond next year’s expenses, the district is budgeting for infrastructure costs including $146,000 for church repairs in 2019 and $97,000 for upgrades to Costin Hall. The district also expects to spend $1,051,000 on road replacement projects between 2019-2022 as well as $400,000 on replacing piping along Huddlestone Road in 2019 and 2020.
Coun. Bob Colclough, who voted in favour of the budget, wasn’t happy with the tax increase but said it is what it is. He said one thing he was pleased about was having the budget completed in December instead of March or April as in years past.
“It gets it done,” he said. “Staff had to work extra hard to get it done but now we can start 2018 and get on with it.”
The district’s legal budget increase represents 1.9 per cent of the 5.4 per cent overall property tax increase that residents will be hit with next year. Councillors, who could have taken the money out of surplus, decided to increase the budget earlier this year, citing an ongoing lawsuit filed by Lantzville Mayor Colin Haime and councillors Denise Haime and John Coulson against former councillors Jennifer Millbank, Graham Savage and Dave Scott as a reason for the increased budget. The Haimes along with Coulson declared conflict and did not vote on the legal budget increase.
Colclough said the increased legal budget may not be enough should the lawsuit continue throughout 2018.
“It is my understanding is a court case of this nature could cost $250,000. It’s unfortunate. It’s not going to cover the cost,” he said. “It’s better for us to increase the taxes this year … and pay towards and then when it does go to court we will have to consider where we are going to take more money. If we didn’t increase a bit, we might have had to increase a lot more later on.”
Coun. John Coulson, who was not at the meeting, told the News Bulletin he would have voted against the budget because he cannot couldn’t support an increase in staffing costs. He said he took issue with other expenses in the budget such as a $30,000 phone system, which was requested by staff, who claimed the system didn’t work properly in stormy weather.
“Our phone system doesn’t work when its raining, come on,” Coulson said. “A $30,000 phone system, is that necessary?”
Coulson said the public and the certain members of council blame the ongoing lawsuit involving former Lantzville councillors, the Haimes and himself.
Coulson said when it comes to the legal fee increase, councillors would have had to request that the district cover those fees, as the district would not automatically cover the legal fees attributed to the lawsuit against former Lantzville councillors, adding he and the Haimes would not have been able to vote on that decision due to conflict of interest.