District of Lantzville residents will likely see a two per cent tax increase this year.
Council approved the first two readings of the district’s five-year financial plan on Monday evening. The $4.2-million 2013 budget includes an increase in firefighter remuneration, a new full-time planner, a few capital expenditures such as road and water improvements, and increases to staff wages and benefits negotiated in the new collective agreement.
The district expects to finish the year with about a $141,000 surplus.
“We’re up to final reading and adoption, so I think we’ve finalized it,” said Mayor Jack de Jong. “I’m very confident with the budget as it stands. I think it’s fair. I haven’t had one negative comment about it.”
Council increased firefighter remuneration by about $28,000, which includes increasing the fire chief and deputy fire chief’s wages by $4,000 each to $12,000 and $10,000 per year respectively, and increases to practice and call-out pay for firefighters.
De Jong said the move is to bring firefighter remuneration more in line with other jurisdictions and the amount is still low, with the highest remuneration being the fire chief’s salary of $12,000 per year.
“As it is, this community is really getting a good bargain,” he said.
While Lantzville has previously contracted out about 1,000 hours of planning per year, this year’s budget adds a full-time planner as a regular employee at an additional cost of about $20,000, said de Jong.
He said he has fielded complaints from developers wanting access to a planner and council will now have someone available on a more frequent basis to assist with bylaw changes.
“It was one of the weaknesses in our operation,” said de Jong. “I didn’t realize how much work they fundamentally do.”
The largest expenditure in the budget is $800,000 for district staff – nine staff members and council – and this total includes the negotiated wage increases, he said.
The district decided not to increase the seasonal parks labourer position to 12 months full-time, preferring instead to contract out roughly $150,000 earmarked for trail work carried over from the previous budget, de Jong added.
Major capital expenditures include up to $250,000 for a water main replacement at Peterson Road, $475,000 for road surface repair and replacement and $60,000 for seismic upgrades at Costin Hall.
Besides the two per cent tax increase, residents will also notice a $12 increase in the solid waste parcel tax to cover the costs of this service and the 500 customers on a sewer system will also see these rates increase to cover maintenance and other costs.
De Jong expects council will do a third reading and final adoption of the budget on April 22.