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Slight increase planned for water, sewer, resource recovery in revised city budget

The City of Nelson revised its Five-Year Financial Plan, reducing revenues by $830,000 for the city campground, youth centre, parking, transit, sidewalk and patio rentals. — Photo City of Nelson website

Although the planned municipal tax rate increase for 2020 was frozen, other tax avenues are breaking through the ice for Nelsonites.

The city passed its Five-Year Financial Plan 2020-2024 recently and it has decided to keep flowing ahead with a two per cent increase on water rates, and not flushing a 1.5 per cent increase on sewer rates — both of which were planned prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition, the resource recovery fee will see a significant jump this year — moving from $118 per year to $166 — to accommodate the changes coming this summer to the blue bin recycling program.

The increase in three areas, however, will be offset by the zero increase in municipal property taxes — announced previously — that, despite the “extreme financial strain it has put on our city, council directed staff to have no increase in municipal taxes for 2020,” explained chief financial officer Colin McClure.

That flat line tax was part of a 25-point economic stimulus and financial stability action plan developed specifically to address the outbreak, he added, not only dealing with financial challenges the city faced, but also those impacting the community directly.

That meant a revision of the Five-Year Financial Plan — reducing revenues by $830,000 for the city campground, youth centre, parking, transit, sidewalk and patio rentals — but all areas such as water and sewer didn’t feel the bite of the axe.

In order to offset the loss in revenue, the city reviewed its budget and reduced expenses by $800,000 “while keeping municipal services mostly in place,” said McClure.

Also on the plus side of the ledger, along with the zero increase for municipal taxation, Nelson Hydro rates for 2020 will remain frozen at the 2019 amount.

The overall financial plan includes the revenues and expenditures planned for 2020–2024 that have been presented to both council and the public.

“All proposed expenditures, funding sources and transfers to or between funds must be included in the plan,” said McClure.

The plan for the plan

The economic stimulus and financial stability action plan includes initiatives and programs focusing on three key areas: the financial plan, fees and taxation; economic stimulus; and community support.

Online with the bottom line

The city staged a virtual “budget open house” May 6 in council chambers with the presentation streamed online like last year.

However, due to restrictions in place during the covid-19 outbreak, the online streaming of the presentation was the only method of public viewing of the 2020 budget presentation.

In earlier budget meetings, a two per cent inflationary tax increase had been proposed and accepted.

The 2020-2024 Financial Plan process included council and staff “having a variety of internal, external and public meetings over the past six months to review current financial performance, budgetary pressures and forecasted departmental budgets,” said McClure.

The rate of taxation

Residential assessment values for property in Nelson have gone up in 2020 by five per cent, while commercial assessments went up six per cent as compared to 2019.

“In keeping with council’s objective to maintain the same tax rate ratios as previous years, staff were directed to prepare the 2020–2024 Financial Plan and 2020 Tax Rate bylaw using the fixed share approach,” noted McClure in his report to council.

He explained that the rates reflect the share of the tax levy collected from each property class, but are to remain constant — as directed — except where changes are due to non-market changes such as growth.

“The result is the same 73 per cent and 25 per cent residential and commercial ratio of the total municipal tax burden,” McClure said.

— Source: City of Nelson

Virtual council

With the physical distancing restrictions in place due to covid-19 pandemic the proposed financial plan was presented to the public from council chambers on May 6 by live streaming only.

The YouTube link to the 2020 budget presentation video and a pdf of the presentation is available through the city’s website.