Port Alberni city council to ‘stay on course’ for five-year budget plan

Next budget meeting is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m

Port Alberni city council is planning to “stay the course” for this year’s five-year draft financial plan, sticking to the same figures as the 2017-2021 plan.

In this draft, all departments except three (police, fire department and economic development) will be held to one percent increases in 2022, keeping to five percent over five years.

The draft also includes proposed annual taxation increases of three percent for residential taxpayers.

City council last year elected to shift its reliance on industrial tax revenues to a focus on infrastructure renewal, through a gradual redirection of heavy industry tax revenue to infrastructure reserve funds.

In 2017, the city projected spending $930,000 on infrastructure, but in the end, only spent $708,000. Most of that money went back into operations, instead.

“We actually declined last year the money that goes into infrastructure,” said city CAO Tim Pley. “Which is obviously not the direction we wanted to go.”

One of the city’s most expensive departments, policing, will see a five year net increase of $563,930, or 8.5%.

Last year, council determined that the city experiences a policing “surplus” that is actually an under expenditure of revenue, largely because of temporary vacancies. The money goes back into the city and is put into a reserve fund for major policing costs. Council voted to use this surplus to pay for an additional RCMP member, and also to remove the cap on the reserve fund. The city now pays for 34 RCMP members but only budgets for 32, relying on that surplus to pay for the extra two members.

“We can do that safely because we have one million dollars in a reserve fund,” said Pley.

This draft budget also shows the reduction of one RCMP member in 2019, bringing the total number of officers down to 33.

The engineering and administration budget will be decreasing starting this year, after the city voted last year to redirect 30 percent of the engineering technologists’ costs into the capital budget over a five-year period.

Over the next five years, the city will be reducing consulting services by 50 percent, resulting in a drop from $40,000 to $20,000.

Councillor Sharie Minions was concerned about this reduction. “What does that 20,000 actually represent?” she asked. “It looks great on paper now. But what’s not going to get done because we’re cutting that budget in half?”

“It takes away our flexibility,” said Pley.

The reduction will reduce council and staff’s ability to make quick decisions on projects, such as a heavy truck count.

The Fire Department will see the largest rise, with a five year net increase of $443,155 or 13.7%.

Although Heritage and Culture saw a jump in costs in 2017, this was largely because of funding the city approved for McLean Mill. 2018-2022 is projected to see a decrease of $167,181, or 25.6%.

However, McLean Mill Society director Bill Collette was in council chambers last Monday to ask for an additional $25,000, bringing the mill’s budget to $200,000 on the operational side. This is still an 11 percent drop from last year’s ask.

“Our intent always was to drop it annually,” said Collette.

The next budget meeting, scheduled for Monday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m., will feature an e-town hall format with opportunities for members of the public to voice their opinions, suggest new ideas and ask questions.

Another meeting on Monday, Feb. 19 will feature roundtable discussions with city managers. Other meeting dates are to be determined, although final approval of the budget will take place on Apr. 9. All meetings will be open to the public.

The draft budget, as well as Pley’s budget presentation, is available to view online.


Just Posted

Port Alberni Black Sheep win match against Island rivals

Black Sheep squared off against the Nanaimo Hornets for TC Cup action

11th annual Magic Cottage kicks off this weekend in Port Alberni

Cottage will be open over two weekends in November

Port Alberni RCMP hold second bike registration event

Project 529 will be at Canadian Tire on Saturday, Nov. 17

Husky Gas Station robbed on Third Avenue

Port Alberni RCMP still searching for suspect

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Saving salmon: B.C. business man believes hatcheries can help bring back the fish

Tony Allard worked with a central coast First Nation to enhance salmon stocks

High-end B.C. house prices dropping, but no relief at lower levels

But experts say home ownership remains out of reach for many for middle- and lower-income families

Worker killed in collision at B.C. coal mine

Vehicle collision occurred at approximately 10:45 a.m. this morning

B.C. asking for tips on ‘dirty money’ in horse racing, real estate, luxury cars

Action follows a Peter German report on money laundering in B.C. casinos

Canadian dead more than a week after plane crash in Guyana: Global Affairs

Global Affairs said it couldn’t provide further details on the identity of the Canadian citizen

Children between 6 and 9 eligible for $1,200 RESP grant from province

BC Ministry of Education is reminding residents to apply before the deadline

Victoria spent $30,000 to remove John A. Macdonald statue

Contentious decision sparked controversy, apology from mayor

Privacy concerns over credit card use for legal online pot purchases

Worries follow privacy breaches at some Canadian cannabis retailers

NEB approves operating pressure increase to repaired Enbridge pipeline

The pipeline burst outside of Prince George on Oct. 9, now operating at 85 per cent

Most Read