The regional district passed its budget, but directors said they know they need to be able to trim it in future years.
Regional District of Nanaimo directors, at their board meeting Tuesday, voted 17-2 to approve the 2020-24 financial plan.
Area C director Maureen Young said residents in Extension-Nanaimo Lakes-South Wellington have expressed concerns about rising staffing costs. She said staff have been able to answer all her questions, but noted that with many of the departmental budgets, “by 2024 it’s enormous, especially for the fire departments and administration.”
Nanoose Bay director Bob Rogers urged the board to pass the budget, but said he doesn’t believe that the projected tax increases from 2020-24 are sustainable.
“When we take a look at the significant cost increases here, I guess sometimes we’ve been our own worst enemies in asking for some of these service increases…” he said. “This board is going to have some challenges in the next couple years of our mandate to take a look and see what we can do to keep some of the escalating costs within the regional district under control.”
Rogers said the board should be cautious both in providing resources and also in making commitments to communities.
Lehann Wallace, director for Area G, French Creek, said her “main concern is this financial plan doesn’t leave affordability room for big-ticket items like health care and hospital costs” and law enforcement.
The two directors who voted against the financial plan were Young and Nanaimo director Tyler Brown.
Tax increases will range from an additional $34, bringing the requisition to $670, for an average home in Area H, Qualicum Bay-Deep Bay, to an additional $56 for a requisition of $827 on an average home in Area G. The City of Nanaimo’s regional tax requisition increases $46 to $491, Lantzville’s goes up $22 to $533, Nanoose Bay’s rises $52 to $743, Cedar-South Wellington climbs $43 to $632 and Gabriola Island is up $41 to $417. Area C is up $56 to $710. Parksville’s regional tax requisition rises $36 to $684, Qualicum Beach’s goes up $14 to $760 and Area F, Coombs-Hilliers-Errington, climbs $31 to $581.
The biggest capital plan expenditures for 2020 include $23.5 million for the French Creek Pollution Control Centre and related infrastructure, and $16.4 million for Greater Nanaimo Pollution Control Centre and related projects such as pump station upgrades.
The 2020 budget also includes $4.8 million toward transit exchanges in downtown Nanaimo and at Woodgrove Centre, $4.2 million for Dashwood firehall replacement, $4 million for regional parks capital spending, $1.5 million for Meadowood Community Recreation Centre construction, $1.4 million for information services capital spending and $1.2 million for the Gabriola Village Trail.