PORT McNEILL—Residential tax rates are set to tick slightly upward this year, but the Town’s taxpayers seem to be taking the news well.
Council hosted a statutory public consultation meeting Monday on its draft 2014 budget bylaw, originally released last month, and sat before an otherwise empty chambers.
“I have not received any written responses, nor has anyone seen fit to phone me,” treasurer Dan Rodin informed Mayor Gerry Furney and council. “So, I haven’t heard any comments at all.”
Asked by Furney whether that suggested the public supported the proposed budget, Rodin admitted, “That would probably be a reasonable assumption to make.”
In last month’s rollout of the 2014 budget, part of the Town’s proposed five-year budget bylaw, Rodin described it as a “status quo” budget, largely holding the line on spending.
In response to a question from Coun. Gaby Wickstrom, Rodin said the proposed residential tax increase came in response to a 1.47 per cent decrease in the assessed value of properties in the Town, in order to maintain a consistent level of municipal funding.
As a result, the average homeowner should see little change in tax burden in real dollars in the coming year.
And the Town’s financial situation may actually benefit from the addition of two new taxpaying properties — one recreational, the other a business — that he had no information on from BC Assessment at the time he was compiling the budget.
“We’re actually going to get more tax revenue this year than in the budget,” he said. “On the other hand, we may have expenses that I may be unaware of. I’ve got a feeling that, by the end of the year we’ll probably have spent a little more than what we actually planned to, but we’re also going to get a little more revenue to, so hopefully by the end of the year it will be a wash.
“But we’ll be monitoring it every month, too.”
On the other hand, Rodin was unable to answer a follow-up question from Wickstrom regarding a $365,000 deficit carried over from 2013. Noting a $440,000 debt in 2013 carried over from capital projects on a new water main and harbour improvements, Wickstrom said she was led to believe by the Town’s previous chief financial officer, Albert Sweet, that the 2013 budget was structured in a way to pay down that debt.
“Did we only pay off $75,000 (from the previous deficit), or do we have any major expenses that we didn’t know about,” Wickstrom asked.
“I wasn’t here for that conversation,” Rodin opened. He directed council’s attention to the deficit on last year’s financial statement. “By allocating $400,000 to deficit reduction, which is what was done, then conceptually, if everything else got spent, you would still be in the hole by about $305,000,” he pointed out.
Rodin added he was scheduled to meet with the provincial auditor May 5, and expected to have more detailed information for council on the 2012 and 2013 budgets, resulting from that visit, by mid-May.
Coincidentally, council will meet on May 5 to give second and third readings to the budget bylaw. Adoption of the bylaw would come in a subsequent meeting.