Lantzville District Hall. (NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin)

Lantzville re-votes on financial plan, moves closer to tax hike

Residents facing 4.3-per cent property tax increase

After rescinding the first three readings last week, Lantzville councillors are once again one step closer to approving the 2017-21 financial plan bylaw.

Lantzville councillors voted 4-2 to approve the first three readings of the financial plan bylaw during a special council meeting on Wednesday.

The move comes after councillors decided on Monday to rescind their actions from an earlier special meeting held on April 19, where they approved the first of three readings for the adoption of the 2017-21 financial plan bylaw along with the tax rate bylaw.

Coun. Dot Neary said she is supportive of the financial plan. She said she while she doesn’t “relish” the idea of paying more taxes as a resident, she can live with the financial plan because it reflects the needs of the district.

Coun. Will Geselbracht said he’s fine with the financial plan and cited a 2016 newspaper article that said the district had the lowest property tax rate in the region. He said while the district is trying to keep taxes low, there are changes coming within Lantzville.

“I think that going forward we try to keep that tax rate low,” he said. “We try to be prudent, but we are on the cusp of some changes in this municipality and the results of our [Official Community Plan] and master water plan will dictate where we’re going … and I suspect there will be some rather large changes and we will listen to the will of the people.”

Coun. John Coulson said he couldn’t support the financial plan for a number of reasons, citing increasing district expenses despite a declining population in Lantzville. He said hiring more staff members and additional expenses will be felt by the taxpayers.

“That increase is solely on the backs of taxpayers,” he said. “I can’t support this budget at all … as members of council we are stewards of the residents’ purse and we have to recognize that.”

Mayor Colin Haime was also not in favour of the financial plan. He said development application fees are a one-time revenue source but hiring full-time staff members is an annual cost, adding that development doesn’t always pay for services.

“When you commit to any staff it’s an ongoing expenditure … if development paid, Nanaimo, Vancouver, Victoria would have budgets with buckets of money coming out of it, yet they’re doing the same thing we are. They’re scratching for grants to pay for the basics,” he said.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Coulson sought to amend the financial plan to reflect the costs associated with hiring a full-time community planner. However, the district has yet to publicly announce such a decision and Ronald Campbell, chief administrative officer, told councillors that information should not have been disclosed in public.

Both Haime and Coun. Bob Colclough told district staff they were under the impression that the information was available for the public.

“I have to admit my assumption was once we rise and report it becomes public,” Colcough said.

Campbell said council passed the resolution to declassify a ‘couple of items’ in-camera, but that those items have not been brought forward to a public agenda.

“Although there is a resolution in the in-camera agenda, that resolution still remains in-camera so I don’t know how that is actually handled at the district. The declassification motion took place in-camera and remains in-camera in my mind until that is released on a public agenda,” Campbell said.

Coun. Denise Haime was absent from Wednesday’s meeting. Councillors will now vote on adoption of the financial plan and tax rate bylaw on Monday (May 1).

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