The District of Lantzville is ready to present to its residents a budget that will come with a 21-per cent property tax increase.
The municipality held budgeting meetings last month on Oct. 13 and Oct. 27, and will hold a financial plan-focused special council meeting Nov. 24 to present the budget to the public.
A staff report noted that if the budget is passed as presented, property taxes would go up from $1,287 to $1,560 on an average single-family home assessed at $754,100. Water user fees would go up $24, while no changes to sewer or garbage fees are expected.
Some of the operating expenses impacting the budget include an additional $312,000 for asset management reserves – to maintain 2021 levels aided by COVID relief – and a $103,000 planner position. Significant capital projects slated for 2022 include the second phase of commercial core revitalization between Dickinson and Tweedhope roads, Dickinson Road upgrades and culvert replacement, a Lantzville Road multi-use path and replacement of a dump truck.
Raj Hayre, Lantzville’s director of financial services, told council that there is a $424,000 annual funding deficit in Lantzville’s asset management, meaning insufficient money to renew or replace assets when required.
“This will increase the risk of failure of assets and most likely result in disruption to services,” he said. “This will also result in higher costs of repairs in contrast with assets where renewal or replacement takes place at an optimal or appropriate time.”
Mayor Mark Swain wondered if council should move money from planned projects or delay any staff hires in order to budget more toward asset management.
“I would like to work on some solutions around closing that gap … I do think it’s important to try and start working on closing that gap earlier rather than later,” he said. “Because we’re kind of in a holding pattern [from] last year.”
Coun. Karen Proctor compared the asset management funding deficit to the district’s staffing levels, which she said have gradually increased over recent years.
“While we have increased our contribution to assets, we need to look at a long-term plan that does it realistically, in a similar way to the way we have realistically risen staff levels which still aren’t near the recommended level,” she said.
Council unanimously passed two amendments to the draft financial plan, both put forward by Coun. Ian Savage, to increase the mayor’s pay to $25,000 and to direct staff to create a new reserve fund to expand the community water system.
Savage also tried to make an amendment to remove the planning position from the budget, but his motion was not seconded. He subsequently put forward an amendment to replace the planning position in the budget with a public works position, and that motion failed 3-2 with councillors Proctor, Will Geselbracht and Jamie Wilson opposed.
Council then voted 4-1, with Savage opposed, to present the 2022-26 financial plan to the public at a meeting Nov. 24.