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REPORTING · 19th April 2010
Walter McFarlane

The Kitimat City Council met on Saturday April 17th for a noon hour meeting on the Financial Plan. All Councillors were present. This would give an opportunity for Councillor Gerd Gottschling, who missed the original budget process for personal reasons to have some input.

The first thing Council did was rescind the third reading. They discussed why this was necessary. If they wanted to amend the Financial Plan, they would have to rescind the third reading. Gottschling moved to rescind and it was carried.

Hall went over the schedule for the next two weeks. After the discussion on Saturday, they will present the plan to the public online. People will have an opportunity to talk to their friends. Then there will a special meeting at the Council Chambers where the public will have a chance to provide comment. The final adoption of the Financial Plan Bylaw will be on May 3rd, and May 10th will be the final adoption of the taxes. Councillor Randy Halyk was concerned he would not be in town on May 3rd and 10th. The Plan was carried.

The discusssion would revolve around Apendix B of the financial plan, a document worded around council's plans for the 2010 budget, as well as their overall goals. The document is five pages long.

Halyk said he wanted Council to have a strategic plan for the community and saw this as it. Monaghan said they all want to have the plan but there is always a councillor unable to make the meeting. Halyk pointed out the District of Terrace put together a strategic plan into a brochure months after they were elected. He suggested this was the opportunity to do this.

“I’m not blaming anyone Madam Mayor. I’m just bringing the facts to light,” said Halyk.

Hall explained this was not a strategic plan, it was a financial plan and he recommended keeping the bylaw as simple as possible and long explanations to a minimum.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to make Appendix B longer by combining it with the longer Narrative Document so it is all in one place. Feldhoff suggested drawing attention to the sister document if his motion failed. Halyk wanted to mail the document to every household so the community knows their plan rather than having it on the web.

“This is where we are today and yah, it doesn’t look that great when compared to some other communities but this is where we’re going, we have to plan and this is why we’re doing what we’re doing today, in order to get to where we’re going,” said Feldhoff.

Hall read the mission statement of the municpalty: "to faciltate the highest quality of community life for citizens of all ages and to provide the highest quality municpal services at the lowest possible cost" from the document and explained this was what they used to construct the plan. He argued the document was full of information and suggested this document explained itself. Councillor Bob Corless agreed with administration and suggested this was for the benefit of the new Councillors. He added the budget process should be televised. He suggested he would sooner see televised budget debates in the City Hall meeting room than debates in the conference room. He reiterated he agreed with Hall.

Treasurer Zoe Mulder said she files all the documentation, the appendix and the narrative, with the province. In addition, the Mayor's Message is coming up and this gives the Mayor an opportunity to send the message to the community. Feldhoff's motion failed but Feldhoff made a second motion to reference the narrative in Appendix B so people know about it.

Gottschling asked who would want to see both documents. Feldhoff said it would give the public a chance to know why certain councillors made the decisions they did. Community Clerk Walter McLellen explained the reason they do this is because this is the way the government told them to do it.

"They used to do their budget and a five year plan. Without consultation, the Provincial Government made changes that we need this, you gotta do this, and started really prescribing what you had to do, and the process for you. It was not well received by local government,” said McLellen.

He explained communities give the government the minimum and have a more detailed strategic year plan. Others go the more detailed route. The motion was carried and Council started going through the financial plan’s objectives and policies.

The first major suggestion was to change top priorities from, 'providing municipal services to facilitate the recruitment and retention of employees for industries' to, 'reducing municipal expenditures, encourage industrial development and attract retirees'.

McLaren said this was a valuable objective while industry was expanding, however since Kitimat lost a major industry and the other industry was not hiring. “You might say: ‘Well it still applies to the other industry that’s here, but do we have any recent indication for the last major industry that they think this is a valid objective which they can support?'” said McLaren.

He wanted to send a message the priorities have changed. Corless pointed out this struck him as negative. Feldhoff on the other hand agreed this needs to be modified but the suggestions need to be debated as well. Halyk did not think this objective has changed, because Kitimat was built so industry could have a good place for their employees to live.

“We all know it’s not just the money,” said Halyk. He pointed out nothing was represented in this part of the document concerning tourism. Gottschling said the reason he is in Kitimat is because it was a beautiful town to live in and he believed other people would want to live here as well. Hall pointed out the objectives McLaren made were already dispersed among the other objectives, and asked councillors not to remove one objective to replace it with another which was already covered later on. The document should be read as a whole, not point by point. Hall also expressed he felt this initial statement was still important.

Goffinet agreed and pointed out McLaren’s was phrased with wording which was negative. He wanted the statement of the future to be positive as the original was designed to be positive. He felt this was a good document. Feldhoff suggested removing some languge from the document.

McLaren explained the reason he proposed the amendment was so people could see there was a change on the first page which recognizes the concerns the municipality is facing. He said people may not like it, but council needs to show they are prepared to deal with these issues instead of living in “La La Land.”

The motion failed with only McLaren in favour. Feldhoff made a motion to remove the section on industries and replace it with the words, 'All employers'. He felt this would express flexibility and broaden the language. Goffinet was opposed because the roots of the community, the industry, was covered in the section. He felt this would change the meaning to one which says: Kitimat does not have an industrial future. Hall pointed out they have more services than they would have had because of the major industries that call Kitimat their home. This motion failed.

“Very high level debate today,” joked Hall.

A motion concerning adding language supporting commercial sectors was carried. Council moved on to another section which mentioned community balance among recreation, environment and Industry. Halyk wanted to include tourism as it was no where else in this document. The motion was called and carried. Monaghan and Feldhoff were opposed, Corless was out of the room.

Under sources of revenue, which was taxation and user pay, Halyk wanted to add grants to the list. Feldhoff pointed out grants were already mentioned in the section. Halyk reminded Council there was an opportunity for a grant writer because this would get the grants. Corless added some communties get a lot of their money from grants. Mulder pointed out most grants have conditions on what can be done with them, and most departments look at where they get them. The motion was withdrawn.

McLaren wished to include an explanation saying the taxes for 2010 and 2011 were considered to be together and add to a table displaying proportion of revenues from each source the potential residential taxes for 2011.

Halyk found this more of an explanation rather than a statement about their policies, as this document was a year to year kind of statement. Feldhoff wanted to add a statement about anticipating 2011. Monaghan stated she wished people would think about positive language rather than negative.

Hall did not think this motion was helpful to their organization while also opening Council to criticisms of pre-taxing. The table was also supposed to be fact rather than projection. McLaren expressed the table should reflect what is coming. He also wanted the table to state the facts. This motion failed as well, with only McLaren in favour.

In section D of Apendix B, a section for tax apportionment among assessment classes, McLaren wished to add a note on attracting retirees among objectives. This motion was carried. McLaren also wished to add attraction of Industrial Development. They discussed the rest of the section, striking a section, which was carried.

The Council discussed the tax apportionment. Hall pointed out taxes could change depending on whether or not Eurocan was saved. Feldhoff wanted to add a sentence to make sure people know other projects have been announced. This was carried. McLaren wished to make a motion proposing to extend the table to include the 2011 estimates. He made a motion but there was no seconder so it was lost. Goffinet expressed he was thankful for McLaren's plan to explain to the taxpayers what they are trying to do in 2011. Monaghan thanked McLaren as well because notes he provided to the Councillors were a good guide to work from.

Halyk expressed this was not written in stone as next year, there would be a whole new budget process. Feldhoff thought it would be good idea to put in what they have done. McLaren agreed.

Hall did not wish to include this section. Hall suggested moving on to Section 226 of the Community Charter which deals with making tax breaks for industries. Motions were made to change the wording of this section to say: although Council is not in favour of permissive taxation, if the right conditions were met, such as lots of employment, they would be interested. The motion failed.

As the meeting drew to a close, McLaren expressed the motions which failed needed to go into the narrative. Hall was hesitant to add some of these statements. Gottschling wanted to know if they should pass 3rd reading. He was told he should not because there was still a chance for public input.

“This is a good financial plan the way it is right now. You have made substantial amendments, I think it meets all the statutory requirements and I think it is completely honest with regard to what is happening with this town. I think we should move forward and complete this budget, and staff has to now move on.”

Mulder pointed out they had to give the third reading on April 26th because they could not have tax rates before they have a budget and tax rates were due by May 16th

The meeting was adjourned.
Oh and one more thing!
Comment by Danny Nunes on 19th April 2010
I would like to know what has happened with councillor Gottschlings request for a meeting with Vice President of Rio Tintos BC Operations Paul Henning.

It has been months since the community and council have had an update on the status of the smelter or the status of the modernization project from Mr Henning and not just another announcement of more cash yet no board approval....didnt Rio Tinto have there three conditions to go ahead with the modernization finished months and months ago....gonna give us more BS about the economic downturn when metal prices have stabilized.

Does council not think this is important to get some concrete answers and updates or are they going to just ignore it and hope for the best.
Mclarens La La Land
Comment by Danny Nunes on 19th April 2010

Uh Oh Richie....did you just let something slip out that you shouldnt say oh I dont know....if Kitimats only major employer isnt currently hiring and has given no indication that it will as you say "expand" then why pass any motions or resolutions when the town is on the verge of becoming a ghost town and no amount of retirees coming in will stop that from happening.

"McLaren said this was a valuable objective while industry was expanding, however since Kitimat lost a major industry and the other industry was not hiring. “You might say: ‘Well it still applies to the other industry that’s here, but do we have any recent indication for the last major industry that they think this is a valid objective which they can support?'” said McLaren."

So Mclaren...if as you claim Rio Tinto cant support it....does this mean you will concede that your fellow councillor Gerd Gottschling was right all along and you owe him an apology or will you be stubborn to the very end.