Port Alberni city council is still struggling to balance cost savings and community improvements, with the current 2019-2023 Draft Financial Plan proposing an almost four percent tax increase for residential taxpayers.
During a special budget meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19, city council went through a list of project options, including several high-cost asks like a $289,000 addition to the policing budget and the $200,000 rehabilitation of the Roger Creek Bridge on Gertrude Street. The city has also added $35,750 to this year’s budget to help prepare for cruise ship visits, based on a report from economic development manager Pat Deakin. This funding will cover the basic costs involved in welcoming cruise ship passengers, such as washrooms, a shuttle bus service and signage, but will also give the Harbour Quay a bit of a “makeover.”
Tuesday’s budget meeting started with a proposed 4.5 percent tax increase, but council managed to pare this number down to 3.8 percent.
“The reality is, they are all important projects,” said Mayor Sharie Minions. “This is not a fun process to go through.”
The process involved scrapping a $100,000 solar panel installation project that had been approved by the previous council. The $100,000 was redirected back into the Carbon Reserve Fund, which can only be spent in ways that reduce greenhouse gases. Of that total $38,000 was re-allocated to the purchase of a hybrid vehicle for the manager of engineering, who has been using his personal vehicle for work. An additional $50,000 was allocated to help replace the Alberni Valley Multiplex’s Ice Plant Chiller; a project that has been on the city’s books since 2018.
One year ago, the city agreed to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the supply and installation of solar PV arrays on one or more city-owned facilities.
During Tuesday’s meeting, city CAO Tim Pley said that a feasability report determined that only two city-owned buildings were able to support the weight of these solar PV arrays.
“The buildings that were suitable needed some modifications or had limitations,” he said.
The previous council then redirected the funding towards a solar incentive program that would encourage people to include solar on their own homes, but the project has been on hold ever since. On Tuesday, council agreed to cancel the project to free up the funds.
The 2019-2023 Five-Year Financial Plan is still waiting on several staff reports and council decisions. City council has still not decided how much funding they will be providing for McLean Mill National Historic Site, for example.
The next budget meeting will take place on Monday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers. The meeting is open to the public.