Questions on if no tax increases is the right thing to do are being asked by a Williams Lake City Councillor as the City plans its budget for 2018.
Councillor Laurie Walters says she is worried about the 4 years that they have been running at a zero percent.
“I was a bit surprised to hear that none of my colleagues have had conversations with taxpayers about planning ahead and the reason why staying at zero percent for years is perhaps not a good thing,” Walters said of a Committee of the Whole meeting on December 12 that drew silence when she asked Councillors if anyone else has had conversations drawing similar concerns.
“Conversations I’ve had with young families, they get it. They realize the importance of planning ahead and the reason to do that.”
A report by the City Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Vitali Kozubenko states on the assumption of zero percent change in taxes, the amount of annual surplus in 2018 is insufficient to cover capital expenditures.
‘In 2018, operating revenues are expected to increase slightly by 1.1% (even on assumption of 0% change in taxes). This increase is driven mostly by expected increases in Cemetery and Complex Revenue.
Overall operating expenditures are expected to increase by 3.4% (there is no general trend, as some City departments are projecting increase in costs, while others projecting the reduction) debt servicing to decrease by 7.4%. The fund is expected to operate with only minimal annual operating surplus of $81,930. ‘
The report also says that at current revenue levels there will be no surplus in the 2019-2022 time period to contribute to General Fund Capital program.
‘General Fund, without revenue increase or cost reduction, is projected to operate with operating deficit from next fiscal year.’
“I remember when I was first elected, I remember having to go to municipal government school and the workshop facilitators they all cautioned about the zero percent how that is not the way to go,” says Walters.
“Sooner or later before you know it are we going to raise our taxes to the double digits to make up?”
Mayor Walt Cobb has called zero percent tax increases in previous meetings and also interviews as ‘unsustainable’ but said with the wildfires they are going to do what they can to lessen the impact on residents and businesses.
“To essentially to run the city it’s about $21.2 million dollars. Our operating expenditures is $19.865 million plus we pay $1,311,000 a year towards our debt so our actual cost to the City balances out to be $21,176,000,” said Councillor Scott Nelson on December 12 praising Kozubenko for his clear and precise reports that are easier for the general public to understand.
“So if we want capital on top of that then we have to be creative of how we’re going to come up with additional revenues or cuts.”
The 2018 provisional budget will be up for approval by Council at a regular council meeting on December 19.