Property tax rates within the city of Port Alberni are proposed to increase by 3.0 per cent, following a special budget meeting on Monday, March 30.
The decision isn’t yet final pending the passing of the financial plan and property tax bylaws at the end of April.
The city started with a 2.8 per cent increase when budget discussions began in January, dipped to 2.2 per cent and are now hovering around 3.0 per cent.
According to city manager Ken Watson, this was based on opening the SPCA on Mondays for $16,000, an extra half-time economic development office position for $50,000, planters on Johnston Road for $10,000, city hall wooden siding for $35,000, tsunami system speaker upgrades for $43,000 and online streaming of council meetings for $15,000. A $25,000 reduction in street sweeping had also been previously approved.
Upgrading the aging telephone system in municipal government buildings and a new dedicated vehicle for the bylaw enforcement officer was approved from ERRF and will have no effect on taxation this year.
At the March 30 meeting, the manager structure pay review was approved for a cost of $50,000, despite concerns being raised that a review had been done just four years ago.
Digitizing the city’s GIS system was approved at a cost of $40,000, while a $30,000 external marketing contract with the Chamber of Commerce was deferred until discussion could be had with Alberni Valley Tourism.
Council said no to spending $250,000 on Canal Beach.
“I don’t know that I would ever support $250,000 of taxpayer money going into this,” Coun. Ron Paulson said.
After the meeting, Paulson clarified that he wasn’t against the project, just the price tag.
“In all good conscience I can’t go to the taxpayer for $250,000 this year,” he said.
Citing his experience in fundraising for the Multiplex, Paulson said that “I believe that there are ways of getting those projects done and not totally on the taxpayers’ heels.”
While service groups had previously been called upon to help fix up Canal Beach, Coun. Dan Washington said that a lack of security at the site was an issue.
Speaking after the meeting, director of parks, recreation and heritage Scott Kenny said that the restrictive covenant on the site “prohibits overnight stays, so we’d have to clear that with Western Forest Products.”
Regarding the Tseshaht First Nation, who own the land to the site of Canal Beach, Kenny said they’d been approached.
“I’ve had discussions with them and the people that I’ve talked to have absolutely no interest in opening that up to the public.”
The financial plan bylaw will be introduced and read three times during the regular council meeting on April 13.