The process of determining how Port McNeill will spend property tax money in 2020 began in earnest last Monday (Dec. 9) as mayor and councillors met to review the first draft of next year’s budget.
The basic operating budget for 2020 is currently projected to cost the town $3,336,542, and income (tax, grants, fees etc.) is forecasted at $3,903,082.
At this preliminary stage, those numbers indicate a budget surplus of approximately half a million dollars. However, this is before consideration is given to some necessary infrastructure repairs and upgrades and before council receives the BC Assessment Authority’s valuation of all properties within town limits. The latter assists council in determining property tax rates for 2020.
Public Works Manager Julian Allen and Emma Bates, Harbour & Information Centre Manager, took council through a list of 34 projects and initiatives for their consideration. The list is a mixture of urgent and non-urgent items and each year only a few of the most needed or urgent are approved.
This year, the top four include: Upgrades to the water and wastewater plants that will bring the monitoring/alarm systems up to modern standards.
Storm water system upgrades at the intersection of Haddington Crescent and Pine need to be completed in order to eliminate surface water pooling, pavement damage and sheet ice conditions during freezing weather.
Continued work on the landslide mitigation project along Beach Drive needs to move forward after the first, localized phase was completed in 2019.
And completion of the final stages in the municipal ramp replacement and dock upgrades that began in 2018 needs to move forward.
The list goes on, but as it was explained to council on Monday, just these four projects alone will cost $585,000.
In BC, provincial legislation does not allow municipalities to run deficits. As a result, all councils, including Port McNeill, are required to fund operations within the constraints of their ability to raise those funds through local taxation, fees, grants, or income generating sources. Borrowing for capital cost projects is permitted but the cost of repaying those loans must be included in the operating costs of the town.
Operating within these restrictions and with a limited tax base, council will be spending the next several weeks reviewing the options available to them. Another draft budget will be prepared in January, followed by another review with town managers.
Throughout this process, residents are encouraged by mayor and councillors to add their thoughts and ideas. All budget meetings are open to the public and supporting documents, agendas and minutes are available online through the town’s website at http://www.town.portmcneill.bc.ca