Editorial: Council’s last budget will have election takeaways

At this late date, there might be few options for limiting the tax increase

City council, at its meeting Monday, demanded further changes to the budget at a time when staff members sure seemed like they wanted to see it going ahead as amended. CITY OF NANAIMO image/photo illustration

A lot of us are kind of last-minute when it comes to taxes, and the City of Nanaimo is no different.

City council, at its meeting Monday, demanded further changes to the budget at a time when staff members sure seemed like they wanted to see it going ahead as amended.

Now, with not a whole lot of time to spare, the city’s finance department is going back to its spreadsheets to try to find enough savings to lower a 3.01-per cent property tax increase to 2.0 per cent. The former was deemed unacceptable by a 5-4 majority of councillors Monday, but the latter would be an acceptable figure, they say.

RELATED: City council won’t accept more than a two-per-cent tax increase

Council threw around some more ideas for ways to trim the budget on Monday, discussing certain job openings and whether those positions were needed.

City staff said at this late date, there might be few options for limiting the tax increase, including dipping into surplus, which staff said could impact next year’s tax requisition. That may well happen, and perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising in an election year. Councillors, depending on their plans for the next local government election, have to get through that bit of uncertainty before they necessarily need to start worrying about budget that comes after that.

Councillors acknowledged that this year’s financial plan would come at the last minute again when they hoped to have had it done long ago. Not mentioned were out-of-the-ordinary challenges this year with the CFO on leave at a key time of year for accounting.

City councillors may be pandering a little bit, but it is the last budget of their term. One way or another, we think the messages within this budget will be in voters’ minds at the ballot box in a few months’ time.

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