REPORTING · 3rd March 2011
So you want to understand the 2011 Budget process without having to go through 11 pages of articles to do so?
Last weekend, Council sat down for their 2011 budget. Having had some time to digest what took place, below are a few of the highlights.
The budgeting process took a lot longer then it does in the last four years. In 2010, Kitimat City Council Raised taxes 20% so they can build up their revenues. This year, they managed a tax increase taxes by 2.57%. However, this number can change.
The first reason is the budget still is not in stone. It needs to be approved at the Council Meetings to come. In addition, there was an item which Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to give second thought to after it was removed from the budget, the Mount Elizabeth Tennis Courts Refurbishment.
Finally, there is the Action which West Frasier has taken against the Assessment Authority. The Eurocan Mill was assessed to still put forward a certain amount of taxes. However, if they win this claim, their assessment will drop $2,000,000 and the taxes will change.
The balancing of the Taxation focused on the Capital expenditures this year, many of which were on the books from years past and quite a few items were carried. Several items of note included KIR, The Retire Kitimat Task Force, The MESS Tennis Courts, the new Animal Shelter and Snow Clearing.
During the first day of the budget, Martin Gould gave a report on how many of the teams had dropped in number. The adult hockey teams had dropped from 23 to 15, the minor hockey teams had gone from 253 players to 209 and while the number of figure skaters had increased from 82 to 119, the hours they use the ice dropped by 2 and a quarter. During the 2010-2011 year, KIR spent 37% of it’s time empty.
The Council discussed whether or not they wished to keep KIR open. Mayor Joanne Monaghan pointed out KIR and Snow Clearing were two subjects Council should consider not skimping on, lest they hear back from an irate public. Councillor Rob Goffinet was opposed to keeping the rink open. KIR required almost $100,000 dollars in upgrades. The upgrades passed and KIR remains open for another year.
Randy Halyk suggested cutting from the Retire Kitimat Task Force from Day one. He tried three motions, one to cut the expense entirely, one to cut their capital grant request of $30,000 leaving them money they had unspent from last year and one to cut their $30,000 request down to $10,000. None of the motions received a seconder and the $30,000 passed.
The funding of the Mount Elizabeth Tennis Courts became a discussion on whether the community needs an additional set of courts as well as should the Council be funding a branch of government who had more money then they did. They weighed the creation of recreational opportunities against need and the decision ended in a 4-3 split to cut the project although Feldhoff suggested this project needs second thought.
While the construction of the Animal Shelter is finished, the building still needs a few final touches to be brought up to code. While $45,000 was approved for the finishing the building, there was still one line item which had no cost associated with it.
Snow removal was a big issue. While Council did not go in depth into the snow clearing budget, the discussion revolved around the blower. One of the blowers had lost an axle. The blowers themselves are old and are now obsolete so the part is no longer available. In addition, both blowers have cracked frames. Council debated on whether they should repair the blowers and see if they last another few years or replace them. Council decided to replace them.
Council spent a lot of time gathering information on the decisions which they had to make. Many line items were heavily discussed and decisions were well informed. While they took their time on the budget, this still caused them to take an extra day, and an extra hour and a half, to get things done.
The idea of budgeting based on hope also came up from time to time. Feldhoff was suggesting putting of certain projects until Kitimat has a new industry providing them with millions of dollars. He mentioned Enbridge once. On day two, Councillor Randy Halyk questioned how much Kitimat LNG, the only project which close to starting will bring to Kitimat. The answer was it would bring Kitimat nothing and Kitamaat Village up to $12,000,000 a year. Other projects were brought up in the hopes that better times would be around the corner.
Is it a good budget? That is left for the people of Kitimat to decide. It is currently only 2.57% higher then last years 20% increase. Operating budgets were barely touched on and quite a few capital projects which have been in the books for the last four years (and maybe longer) have been approved.
While the budget marathon is over, the budget itself continues. Yesterday, the Council held a meeting at 5:30 to determine apportionment of the budget. They also took some time to discuss other items.
“I think that Council did a good job, they looked very diligently at every aspect of the budget, they reduced in every area that they could and I think the home owner will be quite happy with the results because I know many of them thought they would have a 20% again and this time, we only have a 2.5%. People will be ok,” said Monaghan.
West Fraser government welfare.
Comment by Darcy Metz on 3rd March 2011
One way to help our municipality would be for the federal government to take back the $30 million they gave West Fraser for shutting down Eurocan and give part of it to the city.