Council Meeting for Feb. 13, 2012

Ron Bolin: Feb. 10, 2012

The full agenda for this meeting can be found at:

At this meeting Council will be making a number of amendments to the Zoning Bylaw, some of which bring about substantial changes.  If unsure of how these changes might affect your neighbourhood, see the agenda.

It is also likely that Council will give the first three readings to “FINANCIAL PLAN BYLAW 2012 NO. 7144”.  This bylaw will set the following tax rate increases:

Tax Increase 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
    Blended 2.8% 2.1% 3.1% 3.4% 3.0%
    Residential 3.8% 2.7% 3.1% 3.4% 3.0%
    Commercial 2.8% 2.1% 3.1% 3.4% 3.0%
    Industrial -20.1% -16.5% 3.1% 3.4% 3.0%

There is also an annual increase of 5% to water fees and 6.14% ($7.00) to garbage/recycling fees in 2012, but no increases for sewer are proposed.

The total impact of the proposed budget on a typical single family home (assessed at $350,000 in 2012), including the ·increases for water and garbage, is $90.67 or about 3.9% increase over 2011. This is only for the City of Nanaimo portion of the tax bill. This does not include any other taxing agency (school, hospital, Regional District of Nanaimo), as all of these increases are not known at this time.

Changes made since the plan was first introduced to Council include:

• Elimination of the Internal Auditor position ($150,000)

• Increased funding for Strategic Planning ($23, 175)

The Community Charter requires the Financial Plan bylaw to include a revenue policy. This year, the policy has been amended to include the following statements:

“4. Revitalization Tax Exemptions

• The City of Nanaimo believes that Revitalization Tax Exemptions are an appropriate tool to assist the City in realizing its strategic objectives.

• The City can exempt municipal taxes for up to ten years for projects undertaken by landowners, where the project meets defined objectives of a City strategy.

• Recipients of exemptions must enter into a Revitalization Tax Exemption Agreement with the City.

• Every Revitalization Tax Exemption must be approved by Council.”

The financial plan and tax rates bylaws must be adopted by 2012-May-15. Council will have an opportunity to review the 2012 – 2016 Financial Plan Bylaw in April prior to final adoption of the Property Tax Rates Bylaw. Adopting the 2012 – 2016 Financial Plan Bylaw now authorizes the expenditures in the 2012 budget and allows staff to proceed with the various projects included in the financial plan.

I don’t know if you have heard any significant discussion of this financial plan, but I know that I have not.  It increases residential rates by 3.8%, more than twice the 1.7% increase in the BC consumer price index for last year.  It ignores the situation of what to do with the old city annex after it is emptied later this year.  It ignores continuous increases in water rates and their relation to new water supplies.  It has been repeatedly reported that a new dam, a project for which Council has now authorized the expenditure of up to $560,000, is not needed for our existing population, but is oriented to new growth.  In this case, funding for this project should be not be subsidized by existing taxpayers, but be collected from Development Cost Charges.  Discussion on the subject of whether we should consider putting controls on growth was quickly suppressed at a recent FPCOW meeting.

While it will theoretically be possible to make changes to the financial plan up to its final reading in April, passing third reading now sets the wet cement in place which mitigates changes with every passing week and “allows staff to proceed with the various projects included in the financial plan.”  Is this minimal scrutiny of the budget what was desired when our new Council was elected?  Or is it impossible to keep city taxes in line with the cost of living?