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Castlegar council presents draft 2017 budget

Council Briefs: The draft version of the Castlegar 2017-2021 Five Year Financial Plan was brought forward at Monday night's council meeting.

The draft version of the Castlegar 2017-2021 Five Year Financial Plan was brought forward at Monday night’s council meeting. The budget bylaw passed two readings, which was necessary in order to bring the budget forward to the public input stage.

Budget highlights

• $4.8 million for the North Columbia Infrastructure project, two thirds of the funding ($3.2 million) has come from the Canada/BC Small Communities Fund

• $462,000 for the final payment on the new fire engine

• $818,000 for an airfield lighting and electrical system rehabilitation for the airport

• $3.8 million for storm water projects (the city has applied for $3 million of the cost to be covered by the Clean Water and Waste Water Fund)

• $15.6 million in projects and initiatives

• A significant draw down of reserves — a net $2.5 million withdrawal from accumulated reserves for general, water, sewer and airport projects

•$1.607 million in new long-term debt financing for the Columbia Avenue Redevelopment Project

• A tax increase of $55 per year for the average household (based on a $265,000 home). Of communities in B.C., 92 municipalities have higher taxes and fees than Castlegar and 71 have lower.

• A one per cent increase in commercial taxes

Coun. Bruno Tassone announced that he will vote against the budget. Items of concern included sending a delegation to Castlegar’s sister city Embetsu at the cost of $10,500, the draw down on reserves and lack of reserves for paving and the fire department. He also disagrees with charging residents the full cost for operating the solid waste area at the Castlegar Complex when people from surrounding areas and contractors are also using it.

Counc. Florio Vassilikakkis stated that he was in favour of moving the two readings so that council can hear back from the public on the proposals. He also noted that the draw down of reserves will be going to infrastructure, particularly sewer, roads and water.

“There are a lot of compromises that all councillors must go through each year during the budget deliberations,” said Vassilikakis. “There are little battles you go through … I certainly lose a lot of them. But overall, you can’t win them all and this represents a cross-section of everybody here and their thoughts on what the city should be focused on.”

A public presentation and input meeting will be held April 11, 5-7 p.m. at the Castlegar Community Forum. Copies of the budget are available at and at City Hall.

Pre-approval of budget items

During the presentation of minutes from the finance and corporate services committee, a letter written to the committee by Coun. Dan Rye was brought into the public discussion.

In the letter, Rye brought forth his concerns with comments made by another councillor at previous meetings regarding the approval of financial expenditures prior to approval of the 2017 budget. He was worried that comments might give an improper representation.

The minutes state: “… one councillor indicated that he did not remember council previously pre-approving budget items and wondered why council needed to pre-approve these items if the budget was only a month or so away from being approved.”

The minutes also summarized from the letter: “… the city’s current 2016-2021 five year financial plan included budget amounts for many of the afore noted items and that it is in the city’s best interest that council always be on the lookout for the best use of taxpayer dollars….”

“This is something we have done many times in the past,” said Rye during the meeting. “I wanted it to be out in the open that this does take place. … Sometimes we have to do things in a timely manner….”

“The city doesn’t stop during the five months while we go through the budget process,” said Coun. Sue Heaton-Sherstobitoff. “It is what all communities do.”

Councillor Bruno Tassone responded by saying, “I am the councillor that brought this up. It is just the way the wording was on the draft. … I would like it to be noted — thank you for the information, and I apologize if I misled anyone.”

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