Nanaimo budget sticks to zero tax increase despite new spending

NANAIMO – A tax rates bylaw and amended financial plan will go to a city council meeting Monday (April 18).

Residents are still facing a zero-per cent tax increase, despite the addition of more than $600,000 in project costs to this year’s budget.

Nanaimo city councillors were near unanimous at a committee of the whole meeting Monday on their call for staff members to move ahead with preparing a property tax bylaw and a financial plan amendment for next week’s council meeting.

While no changes have been made to a zero-per cent tax increase, there were new charges added to the budget, including $12,000 to host last weekend’s Association of Vancouver Island Coastal Communities convention and $350,000 for the lower Colliery dam remediation.

According to Victor Mema, the city’s director of finance, there are no changes to the tax increase because costs have been kept low and the city experienced property growth, getting $1.4 million in new revenue instead of the estimated $1.2 million.

Coun. Jerry Hong called the zero-per cent tax increase great.

“I don’t think our residents are expecting a zero-per cent increase every year at all, by any means,” he said. “They know things change and we want to improve our city. But it’s nice to get a break, especially for business owners.”

Coun. Wendy Pratt supported the budget and sees it as one the community will be happy with. She also mentioned that the city is about to hear the results of a core review, which will impact a lot of things and hopefully for the better in the community. If adjustments can be made over the next six months to the budget that are good for the city, “we will do it.”

Coun. Diane Brennan was the only politician to oppose moving ahead with the budget. She considers the zero-per cent increase inadequate funding for the services needed and said the budget is too reliant on reserves.

Neither does she feel it fits with the values she brought to the budget exercise, believing it’s investment in services that help people in poverty, not tax cuts.

“They require the services that government provides for them and a budget that goes backwards in terms of spending isn’t careful enough to invest, is not a budget that’s going to help those people and for me that’s a disappointment,” she said.

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