Deliberations begin on +$10-mill budget
City council and senior staff have begun deliberations on the city’s more-than $10-million budget, with two all-day meetings Sunday and Monday.
“(Discussions) were absolutely positive and productive, moving us forward as a team and helping us set the city’s direction,” said Mayor Lawrence Chernoff.
Councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff said talks are only preliminary at this point, clarifying the overview as opposed to specific dollar amounts, and identifying priorities such as infrastructure and economic development.
“Infrastructure isn’t glamorous – things like storm drains and sewer maintenance – but it’s essential,” she said, using as an example the city’s proposed Columbia Avenue improvement project, which would cost upward of $5 million, but of which the city would only have to pay a third if the federal and provincial governments approve the city’s applications for grant funding. “If we get the grants, we still have to come up with a million or so dollars, so we have to factor that in.”
She said that, while over $10 million to allocate may seem like a great deal, there are also thousands of residents, hundreds of maintenance/service costs and dozens of user groups to consider – all while endeavouring to keep tax rates consistently low.
“Every $40,000 we add to the budget is a one-per-cent tax increase,” she said, adding Castlegar doesn’t have many revenue streams other than taxation (such as the parking metres in Nelson and Trail) to offset budget increases.
On top of that are programs and services being downloaded to municipalities by other levels of government.
“There are lots of pools of grant money that have just dried up,” she said. “It’s all a complicated juggling act. We each hear from our constituents, and bring our priorities to the table, then try to find solutions and approaches we can all agree on.”
She said it will likely take another couple of meetings to hammer out the worst of the rough edges to create a template or draft document to present for public feedback and discussion, at which point a public meeting will be scheduled and input from residents welcomed through a variety of venues, such as verbal, in writing and or via email.
For more information, contact City Hall at 250-365-7227.