The City of Williams Lake presented its preliminary budget at a special committee of the whole council meeting earlier this week.
The preliminary operating budget was built on the council’s direction of a zero per cent property tax and fees increase but included a two per cent projection for property valuation increases. The preliminary budget was also built on assuming a return to pre-COVID normalcy and did not account for potential emergency-related service interruptions.
The projected operating revenue is $29.6 million, with a predicted $27.4 million in expenses giving the City a surplus of $2.2 million.
The City’s predicted capital expenditures are $11.9 million, with the City’s proposed funding sources bringing in $8.3 million, leaving them $3.6 million short. The City still can afford to fund the capital plan from a predicted over $7 million in reserves.
Mayor Walt Cobb said that the preliminary budget shouldn’t change too much from the actual finalized budget, except for some of the dollar figures.
“We’ve said we want a zero percent increase, but we’ve also said no reduction in services, so it’s up to the staff,” he said. “If they come to us and say if you want us to continue doing this, we’ve got to have this much money, and that’s when the crunch comes and when we decide, can we cut somewhere else, or do we actually increase taxes.”
Cobb said overall; he feels the City is in a good place going forward, much better than other communities.
“We’ve been very stringent in the last six years, and we’ve gone with a zero per cent increase; other communities weren’t that way. They’ve increased, they didn’t get the revenue in, we’ve managed to get all of our revenue in, other communities haven’t, and they are having to use the COVID funding to balance their budgets, so they don’t have to make a bunch of staff cuts,” he said. “Because we’ve been good stewards of the money, we are not having to do that; we are able to use that COVID money for shortfalls in revenue or shortfalls for seniors, for businesses, as much as we can, and staying within the guidelines that the province has set up for with the money.”
Cobb said it’s so far, so good, but if businesses continue to struggle and have to close doors, that’s when problems may arise.
“We will be in a really good place if things go back to normal, and we are not to be not in a bad place even if it stays like this for another year,” he stated. “The crunch will come as we start to lose businesses, we’ve been lucky so far, but as we start losing businesses, we start revenue, and that’s when the time comes to make the decisions.”