Lantzville residents could be looking at nearly a 25 per cent property tax increase.
Councillors, during a council meeting on Nov. 4, made some changes to the 2020-2024 financial plan which, if adopted, would result in a 24.7 per cent property tax increase for Lantzville residents, instead of a previously discussed 22.5-per cent hike.
The first move councillors made was passing the first three readings of a proposed property acquisition reserve fund bylaw that would result in a two per cent increase on property taxes for the 2020 budget.
Prior to the regular council meeting, district councillors and staff had gone over the proposed 2020-2024 financial plan during a committee of the whole meeting that was held earlier that day.
Jamie Slater, the district’s chief financial officer, reiterated Lantzville’s financial position to councillors, stressing the need to increase funding to various reserve accounts.
“By the time we hit December 2022 we are in a deficit position, so that means we wouldn’t be able to complete the projects that we have on the schedule,” she said. “That means, that we either need to delay those projects or we need to somehow find more funds to contribute to that reserve or we need to find another funding source for the project, there needs to be something that happens there to address that funding gap.”
Slater said she didn’t know what the answer to addressing the funding gap problem was other than delaying projects.
“We really need to get a hold on our roads asset management and what we are going to do for the next five to 10 years,” she said.
A significant amount of councillors’ discussion was around the possibility of hiring of more staff including a public works employee, who would work for nine months for roughly $98,500. Coun. Jamie Wilson said Lantzville’s public works department is understaffed and has been for years. He said it is obvious by looking at the state of the district’s roads.
“This is infrastructure that we, for years, have not put [money] away for, and therefore that is why we need more public works staff to be out there fixing the potholes on our roads,” Wilson said. “I support that we need more public works staff.”
Mayor Mark Swain commented that without the addition of more public works staff, the district is really “hamstringing” itself.
“We are going to have to look at trying to figure out how we can fund something to move things forward in 2020 because the last thing I want to do is have everything come to a grinding halt,” he said.
Although there was verbal support for additional public works employees, no concrete decision was made during the meeting.
Another decision that came out of the council meeting was the expenditure of $9,800 to “green up” Lavender Road and Harper Road beach ends in the district’s proposed 2020 budget, resulting in a roughly 0.2 per cent tax increase.
While there was little discussion on the proposed property acquisition reserve fund bylaw during last week’s meeting, councillors did discuss the need to include the $9,800 in the 2020 budget.
Coun. Ian Savage called the $9,800 for beach end improvements a “fabulous idea” that would result in the district eventually acquiring much needed green space near the beach.
“It is just a fabulous opportunity and in a way our current budget doesn’t have a lot of good news in it, this is one thing that can be great news,” he said.
Coun. Karen Proctor called it an “interesting idea” but noted that council had already allocated $1,000 for public consultation on the matter. She questioned what the district would get for nearly $10,000 and wants to see more planning done by the district.
Councillors will continue budget discussions during a committee of the whole meeting on Nov. 13.
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