City's public budget meeting draws only five people
The city of Castlegar unveiled its provisional 2011 budget and five-year financial plan last night to an audience of only five people. Councillor, chair of council’s finance committee and current acting mayor (mayor Lawrence Chernoff is recovering from knee surgery) Kirk Duff said he’s not concerned by the lack of attendance at the public consultation. “I take it as an indication that city residents are satisfied with council’s stewardship of their tax dollars,” he said. “It’s a pretty straight-forward, status quo budget with only a modest tax increase for residential and business properties (three per cent and one per cent respectively, with anticipated increases of two-per-cent and one-per-cent, respectively, through the remaining four years of the five-year plan) . “We haven’t incurred any new debt, and we’ve retired all our existing debt except the cost of the new RCMP detachment, which will be paid off in 2014. “The city is currently in an enviable financial position,” he concluded. In a power-point presentation explaining budget break-downs and priorities, city financial director Andre Buss offered an explanation of who is paying what portion of the city’s tax bill. “Major Industry accounted for 45.8 per cent of all municipal property taxes paid in 2009, 39.7 per cent in 2010 (or $2, 435, 823), and it is estimated they will account for 38.2 per cent in 2011. The city is becoming less dependent on this property tax class, which accounts for approximately nine per cent of the assessment base,” he said. Meanwhile, residential taxes comprise 34.1 per cent (or $2,093,614), while business shoulders 22.5 per cent of the tax burden (or $1,379,793). Utilities bring in three per cent of the city’s revenue, or $181,356, while light industry accounts for o.8 per cent or $49, 691. He said it’s worth noting that only a portion of your total municipal tax bill goes to the city at all – in fact, only 39 per cent reaches city coffers. The rest is collected by the city on behalf of the regional district, the school district, the hospital district, etc. “The tax adjustment recommended in the budget will ensure that tax and charges on a representative home in the City of Castlegar remain among the most competitive in the area,” he said, offering a chart indicating taxes on an average Castlegar home are the second-lowest of nine communities in the region, including Nelson, Creston, Trail, Nakusp. Only Fruitvale offers a lower tax to residential rate-payers. To put it in dollar terms, an average Castlegar home, valued at roughly $250,000, would incur a municipal tax bill of about $705. Some highlights of spending proposed for 2011, as laid out by Buss, are as follows: • $400,000 has been allotted to Storm Works projects. Work will take place at the 2200 block of Columbia Avenue, as well as at the area of 36th Street and 4th Avenue. • $120,000 for a new Backhoe. The city continues with its plan to gradually renew its equipment fleet. This will help minimize downtime, maximize productivity and reduce the on-going maintenance costs of our aging fleet. The city has reduced its Equipment Parts budget from $93,400 in 2010 to $70,000 in 2011. • $600,000 has been allocated to Roadworks and Street Paving. • Ongoing commitment to beautification initiatives. Millennium Walkway repair, Water Park rehabilitation, installation of water meters in city parks, Communities in Bloom, development of a parks plan for Twin Rivers Park. • In 2011, the city will complete the provincially funded $175,000 Integrated Comprehensive Sustainability Plan which will lead to a revitalized OCP and comprehensive Infrastructure strategy. • Water system expansion $900,000. • New reservoir development $600,000. • Sewer system expansion $900,000. For more information, visit www.castlegar.ca or call City Hall at 250-365-7227.