LETTER: City of Port Alberni must stop giving in to ‘wants’ while ‘needs’ suffer

Infrastructure is failing and the city should be making this a priority, says writer

To the Editor,

The City of Port Alberni has $25 million of debt on the books, $17 million being incurred in the past seven years. In the last few weeks, city council authorized an additional $2.3 million of internal borrowing to address budgeted shortfalls for the ladder truck, Burde Street water piping, public safety building, and the Somass River force main pipe. Fifteen million dollars of projects are on the books from the past few years that remain to be completed, plus $9.8 million of projects being added to the list this year.

There is no escaping having to borrow for major capital projects, such as for the city’s sewage lagoon project. However, if borrowing is necessary to repair infrastructure, then spending $7.1 million on a “nice to have” path doesn’t make sense while a long list of capital infrastructure projects remains undone. Due to inflation, and other factors, these projects are confronted with escalated input costs to complete them, while at the same time, the tax collected in previous years to fund them has now been eroded due to inflation.

That funding gap will need to be filled by even more taxation, and fees.

Council’s budgeted expenses for 2022 have increased $2.9 million more than originally predicted, with no corresponding increase to their revenue. Despite the rapid uptick for expenses in their current financial plan, council proudly announced about a month ago a reduction of one percent to the property tax rate this year.

Achieving this with help from borrowing to keep property tax increases down, while not addressing the delayed spending on necessary repairs and maintenance of existing infrastructure, is not sound planning.

While staff play a critical role in building the city’s financial plan, the final direction for how much money is taxed, and then where it is spent, rests with the mayor and council

Roland Smith,

Port Alberni

budgetMunicipal GovernmentPort Alberni