City seeks public input on draft 2017 budget
City council is set to unveil its 2017 draft budget at a public open house on April 11 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Community Forum. The budget is only ‘proposed’ at this point, thus the purpose of the meeting is to garner public input and feedback before finalizing the document
The budget includes a four-per-cent increase in residential taxes and a one-per-cent hike in commercial taxes, but still sees Castlegar boasting lower tax rates than Nelson, Rossland, Cranbrook and Creston charges in 2016. In fact, according to a report to council by director of finance Andre Buss, the tax rates of eight West Kootenay communities in 2016 average out to $2,374 for the average single family household, where the proposed 2017 rate in Castlegar is $2,138. An average single family home is valued at $265,964.
“There are 162 municipalities in British Columbia and, as reported by the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, Castlegar, in 2016, ranked the 71 lowest in terms of total taxes and charges levied on the average single family home,” Buss said. “Therefore 92 municipalities in British Columbia pay higher taxes and charges than Castlegar.”
Still, the proposed budget recommends that the city increase municipal taxation by approximately $55 a year or $4.58 per month for the average household.
Buss also said the proposed budget calls for, “a significant draw down of reserves. It authorizes a net $2.5 million withdrawal from accumulated reserves for general, water, sewer and airport projects and authorizes $1.607 million in new long-term debt financing for the Columbia Avenue Redevelopment Project.”
City councillor Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff said the budget is easily the hardest job council does, as it’s a difficult balancing act to serve the wants and needs of a population with a broad range of interests and priorities.
“The taxpayers are always the priority when we make these choices, and we do it based on three strategic pillars,” she said. “You can take every line item, and it will fit into one of the three: quality of life, economic development, or infrastructure.
“We deal with a $29 million budget, with about $13.3 million going to operations and about $15.6 million going to capital projects.”
She said ensuring a high ‘bang-for-the-buck’ quotient for residents is critical in council’s spending decisions.
“There are people who think we should be building up our reserves, but that means increasing taxes, and since reserve funds won’t be used for several years, it means we’d have people paying into now who won’t see the benefit when those dollars are finally spent.”
Highlights from this year’s budget include:
· $4,822,000 budget for the North Columbia Avenue Infrastructure project;
· $462,000 to make the final payment for the purchase of the new Fire Engine Ladder Truck;
· $3.8 million in capital projects in the new Storm Water Fund;
· An $818,000 budget line item in the Airport for an Airfield Lighting and Electrical System Rehabilitation project.
In all of the examples above, the city has taken advantage of funding opportunities through other levels of government to maximize the return on investment for city taxpayers.
The entire draft budget can be viewed online at http://www.castlegar.ca/notice.php?id=511
If you as an individual, or your organization, would like to make budget submissions to City Council, or if you wish to receive further information, please contact the City of Castlegar at (250) 365-7227 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org