Lantzville councillors approved a series of motions that clear the way for more than $205,000 in spending on non-core special request items Monday night.
The expenses will now be included in the upcoming 2018 financial plan, which has yet to be approved by councillors, and many of the items will be funded through general surplus.
Among the special request items approved were $70,000 for an economic development and branding strategy, $22,000 to conduct a zoning bylaw review, $5,400 on mobile radios, $1,280 for a conference phone for the council chamber and $34,000 to pave a portion of a parking lot near Seaview Elementary.
There was some debate among councillors about the usage of district’s general surplus fund during discussion on the motions.
Coun. Denise Haime felt that councillors were approving far too many special request items that weren’t needed and that they were viewing the general surplus fund as a piggybank or cookie jar that is being raided. She said councillors need to do a better job of prioritizing what they need versus what they want.
“In my household and in every household that I know of, we teach our children the difference between wants and needs,” Haime said. “We all want stuff, obviously. We have a whole list of stuff we want, but do we really need all of it? No, we don’t.”
However, Coun. Bob Colclough said the general surplus is paying for work that needs to be done and preferred using the general surplus fund over a tax increase.
“This is paying for it by money that we have collected from the taxpayers in the past for something and did not spend it,” he said. “So, I would much rather spend the money on this than raise the taxes right now.”
Coun. John Coulson said councillors are on pace to withdraw more than $300,000 from the fund in 2018.
“It’s not an encouraging path … we have to get a handle on spending,” he said.
Coun. Will Geselbracht said it is rather immoral that the district has taken taxpayer money and not spent it on things needed in the community over the years, such as the parking lot near Seaview Elementary. He said the surplus fund isn’t a cookie jar that’s being raided for no reason, but is a fund that needs to be used to pay for improvements within the district.
“Folks, the cookie jar, the lid is on tight but it has to be used for various things. We dont’ want to collect money and simply store it away. As far as I know, we are not the Lantzville community credit union,” he said.
Although the items have been included in the 2018-2022 financial plan, Lantzville councillors will need to vote on the financial plan’s adoption at a later date.