PORT McNEILL—A year ago, Port McNeill council chose to take advantage of available government money to complete a pair of major infrastructure projects.
Now, it’s time for residents to pony up their share.
Council last week approved first reading to a pair of bylaws that will result in an upturn in tax rates for residents, utilities and light industry. The extra income will be used primarily to defray a $440,000 draw-down of reserves to cover the water line replacement project and installation of the new dock and ramp at the harbour, both completed last year.
Those projects were aided by two-thirds matching federal and provincial funding, but Port McNeill’s one-third share left the Town over budget for the year. The proposed five-year budget plan bylaw and 2013 tax rate bylaw given first reading last week will seek to balance that shortfall.
“There was a discussion of council at the time, that would we go for as much as we could of the 33-cent dollars which were available from the governments, federal and provincial,” Mayor Gerry Furney said. “We didn’t feel there was an opportunity to get another program like that back on the agenda as fast as we’d like, and so we took advantage of the best rate for getting the job done with the best bidding process.
“With the money coming from the federal government, in effect, the work cost us one-third of what it would normally have cost us.”
Upon final approval of Tax Rate Bylaw No. 644, 2013, residential taxpayers would see an increase in their tax bills from $4.50 to $5.00 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Other rates seeing a boost include utility and light industry, both moving from $17 to $20, and business, from $6.75 to $8.75.
Council also gave first reading to its Five-year Financial Plan Bylaw No. 643, 2013, with a total budget of $4,096,200 for the 2013 tax year.
Both readings were passed without discussion, which drew a response from former councillor Shelley Downey in comment period at the end of the council meeting.
“Has council discussed the financial plan at any length?” she asked. “Because I noticed this evening it’s on the agenda for the first time, and there’s been no discussion at all, it just passed for first reading. Has any preliminary work gone in to this?”
Furney noted that, aside from paying down the overexpenditure in the 2012 budget, the current financial plan follows the pattern of recent years and was recommended by treasurer Albert Sweet.
“As far as it being blindly presented to us, of course we discussed how we arrived at these decisions,” coun. Gaby Wickstrom added. “We were able to share our opinions.”
“In a private meeting, I take it,” Downey fired back.
Wickstrom gave a only a curt nod, but Furney was more expansive in responding to Downey.
“As you well know, we discuss matters of council on a regular basis, informally and formally,” he said. “So there have been discussions with every one of us at some stage, and with our treasurer.”
The bylaws are expected to come forward for additional reading at the next regular council meeting, next Monday evening.
Lions donation OK’d
Council approved the donation of a harbour boat launch pass and family pool pass to the Lions Club for its annual Action Auction. In response to a letter from the Lions Club asking the Town to support its fund-raiser, con. Shirley Ackland brought the motion to provided the passes, maintaining the Town’s traditional support for the event.
In response to a request from Ackland, and with the approval of council, Furney agreed to invite Port McNeill school board trustee Werner Manke to meet with council to discuss the ongoing school board negotiations over the number and distribution of trustees in School District 85.
“There seems to be a bit of hesitation resolving the issue (of trustee distribution), and I’m concerned,” Ackland said. “I think we need to look at what’s going to work in the best interest of this community, and I’d like to hear Werner’s thoughts on how we move that forward. It seems to me it’s stalled.”