Williams Lake City Council is making some hard decisions as Council continues to eye a zero percent tax increase for 2020.
Councillor Ivan Bonnell said at Tuesday’s regular council meeting that Council still has a ways to go to reduce expenditures on the capital side to bring them into the goals they are trying to achieve which includes a zero percent tax increase, no increased borrowing, and paying as they go.
He added that Council is not going to have a lot of leeway over the next couple of years and if this level of expenditures continues they are going to be cash strapped very quickly.
Chair of the Finance Committee Councillor Scott Nelson says Williams Lake is a community in transition and maintains it is extraordinarily healthy in terms of its budgetary numbers and has good reserves.
“We’re obviously looking at trying to increase the amount of business and investment inside of our community,” Nelson told MyCaribooNow.
“We’ve continued to pay down our debt, we’ve held the line on taxes for the last five years, we’ve held the line on the water and sewer within our community for the last five years. We recognize quite clearly it’s tough times out there.”
Nelson maintains the City will have a good solid budget from 2020 to 2025.
He said if you hold strong by paying down the entire City’s debt, it will put about 1.2 million dollars back into the community’s pocket by not having to pay the interest.
Council eyes reductions, removal of projects to achieve 0% tax increase for 2020
Among the reductions being targetted is the replacement of the original windows at City Hall, removing a review of the tax exemption fund, reducing the manager of community safety from full-time to part following Dave Dickson’s retirement at the end of the year, and removing the lake harvester unless it can be paid out of the water fund.
“I think our staff have done a great job in keeping us in line but as we look at how far we go down to 2024 there’s a lot of needs for our municipalities, and somewhere along the line we’re going to have to make decisions on how bad those needs are, whether we’re going to able to meet it through normal assessment increase or whether we’re going to have to increase taxes or go without,” Mayor Walt Cobb said.
“That’s basically the three choices we will have when the crunch hits, but we’ve done a good job so far.”
When Council approved the 2020-2022 fee for service agreements, Cobb had also suggested that the City will have to encourage groups to look at possible grants rather than funding from just the City as he told Council they just saw the budget and where they are in funds that will pass down eventually.
No cash crunch Nelson maintains
“Those estimates are going to be refined and subsequently significantly reduced in those calendar years once we get the full picture because in that budget we’ve got a 15 to 20 million dollar water treatment plant that we’re trying to lower down,” Nelson told MyCaribooNow.
“So there will be no cash crunch because we’ll refine the numbers and put in more realistic numbers when we achieve those particular projects.”
Nelson pointed to a poll of council that was approved on Nov. 4 to authorize staff to procure the services of an engineering firm for an amount not to exceed $40,000 for a water treatment feasibility study.
“We just said we can’t afford a 15 to 20 million dollar water treatment plant, here’s $40,000 to bring us back a study that will put us in the realistic number of 5 to 8 million dollars,” he said.
“So we’ve gone back out and said we’re not spending that kind of money even though its in the budget for 10, 15 years out or 8 years out because it’s in the budget and it’s 15 to 20 million bucks. We’re not paying that, so we’re starting our due diligence now and that’s what Ivan was alluding to is there are some tough decisions. We can’t afford nor do we want to spend 15 to 20 million dollars on a water treatment plant, so that’s part of what we’re doing is looking out those years right now.”
“It’s not that we’re cash strapped, we’re far from that,” Nelson continued. “We’ve got access to 40 million dollars today. We’re doubling down and doing significantly more due diligence on key capital projects and how it impacts the community and making sure that we’re getting the best buy out of it.”