Nanaimo council sticks with one-per cent tax hike

NANAIMO – City council made no changes to the draft budget during financial talks Monday.

Nanaimo politicians are sticking to a one-per cent tax hike.

Nanaimo council made no changes to the city’s bottom line or a roster of taxpayer-funded expenses during a six-hour financial review Monday, opting instead to re-vote on the draft budget this April.

Mayor Bill McKay called it a good discussion, adding it was obvious people were starting to grasp the budget picture and what needed to be done. At the end of the day, he doesn’t think anybody could argue with items on the table to “any great degree” because buildings and infrastructure have to be maintained and services provided, he said.

But Coun. Jerry Hong, whose proposed budget adjustments fell flat, said there didn’t seem to be an appetite to come up with options to reduce the budget and nothing has changed, including his opposition to the plan.

The financial plan bylaw was defeated in February with councillors Hong, Bill Bestwick, Jim Kipp and Bill Yoachim voting against it. The move prompted this week’s meeting to prioritize budget expenses. Only Kipp was absent.

“In order for us to come to any conclusion with a budget we had to bring it back and council had to look at it closely to see if there were ways to bring it down,” said Hong, who wanted to see a zero tax increase and some creativity with this year’s budget to give taxpayers a break. “Now this exact same budget will come before us in April. Nothing has changed. I still won’t be voting on the budget.”

Hong was the only councillor to formally propose budget changes during the section-by-section review, including putting less into the property acquisition budget and using $500,000 from last year’s surplus to offset costs in 2015.

Brian Clemens, the city’s director of finance, warned that addressing expenses with surplus without making permanent budget cuts or creating new revenue would push tax increases to future years. Both proposals failed to get a seconder.

The draft budget will go before council April 20.

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