Thursday, May 4, 2017

City points towards external issues when it comes to financial pressures

Mayor Lee Brain did most of the talking
at the April 24th Council session, outlining
a number of themes related to financial
fairness for the City

The final council session of Budget Season delivered the final verdict on the city's tax increase for 2017 an increase that was passed in less than 62 seconds, with only Councillor Gurvinder Randhawa speaking out once again against the plan to add to the financial burden of the city's taxpayers.

The second of the two part Financial overview had followed the approval of the city's five year plan, the document crafted by Corinne Bomben, the city's Financial officer which sets the course of the city's spending plans.

For a review of financial numbers related to that plan see the City's Agenda for the April 24th Council session, from pages 61 to 75.

And while Council spent little time in discussing any final thoughts on their budget decisions in the early portion of the meeting, as the 42 minute session came to a close Mayor Brain expanded on two themes that seem to be on the mind of City Council these days.

Addressing the city's now frequent lament about unfairness from other jurisdictions, first with Mayor Brain reviewing the theme of the need for additional revenue from the province when it comes to port and other industrial lands in the community, relaying for the public how the ability to tax those lands is limited by provincial legislation.

He also turned his gaze towards neighbouring communities and the need for them to provide more financial assistance towards some of the shared infrastructure in the region, pointing to the airport and recreation centre as two areas where Prince Rupert would like to see a more equitable receipt of funds from the neighbours.

Not mentioned in that litany of how unfair the world has become for the city, were a few of the areas under civic control, such items as the expansive information campaign that seems to be part of Council's new self-promotion process, or the significant increase in city staff and accompanying payroll and benefit  requirements over the last two years, a financial call which one might think has had a pretty important impact on budget planning.

Nor, did the Mayor make mention of the rather surprising developments of the last year where the city had to pony up an additional one and a half million dollars for the airport renovations, or the fact that the city was required to provide some funding for the Watson Island industrial site, where little in the way of revenue had been generated last year.

The financial contributions for those two financial burdens coming from the city's new cookie jar of the Legacy Fund, a financial instrument that seems to be relieving the city of the trouble of having to make any hard decisions when it comes to cost cutting, though as Councillor Thorkelson noted on April 24th at some point that fund will be empty and the city will again be struggling to meet some of its infrastructure needs.

How they've chosen to make use of that Legacy Fund also didn't seem to make it into last week's final overview of the new Financial Plan and accompanying tax increases ahead, and for the most part how that Legacy fund is managed still seems to be very much the thing of internal affairs, perhaps discussed in the range of closed sessions that have been held in recent years.

Through last year and into this one, Council has not called on it's city staff based Board of Directors to provide any kind of overview for the public on how that fund has been working over the course of the last year, leaving what seems to be a go to financial resource, one which still is pretty much a mystery for most residents.

With the final vote of last week and the decision to tap the public for a bit of cash for the year ahead, the preparation of the tax bills will commence.

Residents of the city will start to see their notices arrive in June, outlining the nature of how much, if any, that they will be requested to provide to the city by deadline day in July.

The video presentation from last Monday's council session can be reviewed below, the talking points on the city's financial plan and taxation inclinations start at the minute 19:30 mark, while the larger discussion on financial challenges starts at the minute point..

A wider overview of the discussion on the Port related taxation issues and the new front of discontent with Port Edward can be reviewed from our Council Timeline feature.

For more items related to the City's Budget process see our archive page here.

A review of Council discussion points can be found from our City Council archive feature here.

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