PORT McNEILL—Council gave first and second readings Monday to a 2014 draft budget bylaw that will largely hold the line on taxes and expenditures while devoting more than $300,000 toward paying down existing debt.
“The budget I designed is basically a status quo budget,” new Chief Financial Officer Dan Rodin told council in his report during the Mar. 24 special meeting. “If council is happy with that budget, there’s enough money to pay for all expenditures … if we just have a quiet year without a lot of aggressive spending, then no tax increases will be needed.”
The proposed budget in Five-Year Financial Plan Bylaw No. 649, 2014 shows total revenue of $3,135,000 and expenditures of $2,756,000. The surplus will be applied toward debt accrued through harbour and water main capital projects undertaken in recent years.
Several more modest capital projects are included in the draft budget, ranging from $22,000 for a compressor for Port McNeill Volunteer Fire Department and $51,000 for two projects at the municipal swimming pool. A $67,000 accessibility upgrade to the Old School Recreation Centre is offset by a $50,000 federal grant and a $50,000 community economic study is getting half its funding through Island Coastal Economic Trust (ICET).
Coun. Gaby Wickstrom questioned a $50,000 contribution to a heat recapture system at Chilton Regional Arena, which was approved by the Regional District of Mount Waddington Board of Directors several days earlier.
“The contributors to the arena funding, which are (electoral) Area C, Area D and Port McNeill, have been asked to put up some of their gas tax,” said Coun. Shirley Ackland, who sat as Port McNeill’s representative at the RDMW meeting. “As it stands, the whole project has gone ahead; the $50,000 comes from the (RDMW) arena reserves. So the project goes ahead whether we commit that capital project or not.”
The first and second readings of the draft budget were approved unanimously with the arena heating project included. RD administrator Greg Fletcher will be invited to discuss the ramifications and expected long-term cost benefits of the project before council give final passage to the bylaw.
During its regular meeting Mar. 17, council heard a report from several members of the North Island Community Forest board, which included a request for more tenure.
“We have a few favours to ask,” said Larry Pepper of Port Alice, who as Mayor of the village co-founded the community forest in 2009 in partnership with Port McNeill Mayor Gerry Furney and then-mayor Hank Bood of Port Hardy. “When we originally set this up, we were supposed to receive 15,000 cubic metres a year. At the end of the game we got 10,000. For us to remain successful and to grow, and for you to see more from this, we need more tenure. We really do need a bigger volume. A lot of other community forests do have up to $50,000, so we’re well-justified in asking for more.”
The community forest is a joint venture made up of Port Alice, Port Hardy and Port McNeill as the three shareholders, run by an “arms-length” corporation. Its first sale was completed last year and each of the communities received an initial payout of $100,000.
Asked about the state of the NICF’s finances, board chair Gordon Glover noted the initial loan of $115,000 has been paid back to the three shareholders, and the community has roughly $400,000 in addition to its $300,000 operating fund.
Council approved the reappointment to the board of Port McNeill’s Dave Nelson, who was nearing the completion of his first one-year term.
Town administrator Sue Harvey was approved as chief elections officer and Karen Cessford was approved as deputy elections officer for conducting the 2014 general local elections, scheduled for this fall.