Ed. Note: The following is a press release issued by the City of Castlegar, including links to a survey allowing for in-depth public input before the the public meeting process begins.
Your City needs you.
A little melodramatic, perhaps – but true, nonetheless.
A changing economic landscape in Castlegar has made budget cuts and residential tax increases of up to six per cent almost a certainty – but decisions made today could shape the future of our city for years to come, and Council doesn't want to make those decisions without you.
To that end, a comprehensive survey has been posted on the city website (www.castlegar.ca under the heading 'Spotlight') and is being circulated through local media. Please take a moment to fill it out.
The city needs your input – where we, as a community, invest today will shape our tomorrow, and all Castlegar residents should be a part of determining just how we want our tomorrow to look.
2009 marked some dramatic changes for Castlegar. Our community has traditionally relied on higher commercial and major-industry taxation to provide quality services to our residents while maintaining the lowest residential tax rate in the West Kootenay.
With the closure of Interfor's Castlegar mill, followed by a global economic downturn that left the city's largest ratepayer, Celgar, struggling as it shouldered more than 40 per cent of the city's tax burden, it became clear that something has to give.
The issue facing the city now is not just how to survive these challenging times – Castlegar and her residents have come to expect more than just 'getting through' – the goal is to emerge stronger, more versatile, with the tools in hand to shape a brighter, more prosperous future for the entire community, now, and well into the future.
To that end, city council has been working collaboratively with Celgar to ensure the long-term sustainability of both partners, avoiding the kind of devastating closure experienced by other B.C. communities like Mackenzie, Campbell River and Kitimat.
The downside is that promoting Celgar's continued viability, at least in part through lower taxation, means less money for the services and programs that have provided such an outstanding quality of life for city residents.
To address this, council has taken unprecedented steps to reduce expenditures and concentrate spending on key areas of priority. Staff numbers have been reduced and further reductions are under consideration. Operational efficiencies are being reviewed to achieve further cost savings. Grants to community groups have been curtailed.
But it's not just about crunching numbers and making cuts.
The city's diligent promotion and attraction of new business and commercial opportunities works to achieve a more diversified, versatile, and sustainable economy. At the same new economic growth will diminish the single-industry reliance that has ultimately crippled so many municipalities in this modern economy. Relentless and creative grant applications continue to forward city goals and projects without draining the city budget.
A residential tax increase is part of a balanced, sustainable solution, too. A minimal increase (roughly $132 on the average house over the entire year) represents approximately six per cent of a homeowner's total property taxes.
Together, all these measures will see the city emerge from a trying period, not just intact, but more viable, more versatile and better prepared to meet whatever new challenges lay ahead.
The only piece that's missing, now, is you – how do you envision Castlegar's future? What do you want and need from your community – and what would you contentedly live without?
Fill out the survey. Share your thoughts and suggestions. Help write that story that ends in Castlegar's Happily Ever After.