Following recommendations from city staff, Port Alberni city council has proposed an annual increase of three percent for residential taxpayers, instead of five.
After a lengthy budget discussion on Thursday, Feb. 1, council was considering spending $400,000 over the proposed 2018 budget in order to complete the second half of a major infrastructure project on Sixth Avenue.
On Monday, City CAO Tim Pley brought forward a list of projects that could be altered in order to avoid going over budget.
First, the Alberni Valley Curling Club asked council in 2017 for $40,000 in support of a grant application to replace their aging ice plant. This money was included in the 2018 budget. The Curling Club was unsuccessful in the grant application, and has asked that the $40,000 be reallocated to the 2019 budget, so they can apply again.
In 2017, council also allocated $125,000 from the carbon fund and $50,000 from general revenue to replace the Multiplex’s 17-year-old chiller. However, prices received from an RFP process were considerably higher than budgeted for, and due to equipment delivery timelines, the city has now missed the window of opportunity to replace the chiller.
Parks, recreation and heritage director Willa Thorpe said the chances of a chiller failure in the meantime are “slim to none.” The chiller, she said, is 17 years old, but has a 20-year range.
The chiller project will be added to the 2019 capital budget instead, and a new figure will be brought forward later this year.
Another project is the Argyle Water Main (17th to 21st Ave), with $100,000 coming from general revenue for paving. A review of the project revealed that the paving portion can be paid from Water Reserves, since only part of the pavement will be affected.
$100,000 had also been allocated for a pathway on Grandview Road, but council instead agreed to undertake engineering work this year to determine a design, location and reliable cost estimate for the 2019 draft budget.
Lastly, staff recommended allocating $111,000 from Gas Tax funds to capital work. $71,000 will remain in the Gas Tax reserve in case a capital project incurs unforeseen costs.
“All this frees up $401,000,” summarized Pley. “Which would address that overcommitment.”
Council directed staff to prepare a draft of this budget, sticking to only a three percent increase.
Council also agreed to give early budget approval to McLean Mill, so that rail maintenance can take place before the season starts, and the new bylaw enforcement department, so that the hiring process can begin.