Quesnel residents are looking at a 4.6 percent tax increase in the city’s operating budget, but that number could go down thanks to what the Mayor describes as a “reasonable” surplus from this past year.
The possibility was discussed at the beginning of a special open budget meeting that was held on Wednesday night.
Mayor Bob Simpson noted that they decided at the very front end of COVID to stay the course with the budget, something he said has now paid off…
“We also gave direction to staff, and we made some adjustments ourselves, to not spend where not necessary and to make any kind of decisions with the lens of fiscal prudence because we didn’t know what the revenue shortfalls were going to be with casino, airport, and transit. We also didn’t know what any cost plus implications would be for janitorial services, loss of revenue etc. So with that in mind, and because all of our staff who are represented in here did a good job of taking that to heart, and in conjunction with the COVID relief money we got from the province, it does look like we’re going to have a reasonable surplus this year.”
Simpson urged Council to continue to do the due diligence on the budget however, noting that each line item in the budget was still a real line item with real implications to forward budgets.
He says he raised that point because he didn’t want to see Quesnel make the same mistakes that he felt other Councils were making.
“Too many Council’s are making decisions for this year’s budget that have massive implications for taxation in future years, and they’re punting down the road their issues. I don’t want us to get into that trap because we have a bit of a surplus.”
Councillor Ron Paull made several suggestions to try and bring down the budget total.
“What I’m trying to do here, is I am trying to find about $ 250,000 so we can bring the budget down to 3 percent as opposed to 4.6 percent.”
Some of his suggestions however were paid for with COVID-19 safe re-start grant money, which is targeted for certain things and would not impact what taxpayers were paying for in the budget.
A 4.6 percent increase would amount to $55.16 cents to the average residence, or $24.05 per 100 thousand dollars worth of assessment.
The impact on commercial ratepayers would be $87.08, although again those numbers could come down.
Mayor Simpson says they are also seeking public input on the budget…
“On the city’s website we’ve posted a video, we’ve got a link to the budget document. There is a column explaining what we are doing with the budget and why we’re doing what we’re doing. There is also an e-mail address, so we’ve invited people to watch the video which will be posted tomorrow (Thursday), look at the actual document, and then send us an e-mail.”
Simpson says the public input, along with all of the suggestions made at Wednesday night’s special meeting and the actual surplus number once they have it, will then be taken back to the Financial Sustainability and Audit Committee to prepare a final recommended budget to Council.