City May Cut Back Snowploughing
The snowploughing budget is getting some scrutiny as Nelson City Council works out its budget for the coming year. Snow removal costs about $750,000 annually with another $200,000 added for sand removal. “Staff has been asked to look at ways this could be reduced, and report back,” says Councillor Deb Kozak.
“We may be doing too good a job of snow plouging,” says Mayor John Dooley. “Maybe we should not be ploughing so many streets, or maybe we should be ploughing less often.”
Overall budget shortfall
If the City of Nelson decides to fund no new projects and give no increases to any programs (with the exception of contracted increases under collective agreements), there will still be a $421,000 shortfall heading into budget development for the upcoming year, according to Dooley.
If the city were to fund all requests that have been made from community groups and from its own departments, the shortfall would be about $1-million.
City Council and staff have been in series of all-day public budget meetings over the past two months to figure out how to make up the difference.
Last year: higher taxes, parking meters
This discrepancy between projected income and expenses is nothing new. Last year, faced with similar figures, Council took a number of actions including increasing parking meter rates, raising property taxes by 2%, not replacing a retired policeman and a deputy fire chief, and a few other smaller measures.
This year: campgrounds, skunks, and snowploughing?
Dooley says Council has to ask a lot of difficult questions every year. “How can we do business more efficiently? Are the fines we charge high enough? Are we charging the right fees for our campground? We will turn over every rock we can, to find some savings.
“Should we charge admission to events held in the downtown core? Should we have only 50 hanging baskets, and not 100? We’ll look at everything.”
“We are down to shaving little bits off existing programs,” said Kozak. “We really have very little wiggle room. For example, we’ve discussed whether to get rid of skunk removal.”
1% = $60,000
One solution is to raise taxes. “But raising taxes by 1% only gives us an added $60,000,” said Dooley. “When you look at our total budget of $35-million, and a tangible capital asset base of $125-million, that doesn’t get us a lot.”
Police requesting additional staff
This year the Nelson City Police want their staff member back—the retirement position that was not replaced last year. Will there be a Deputy Fire Chief again? The administration at City Hall wants more staff time and the Cultural Development Commission wants an increase. Will the information technology people at City Hall get the money they want for system upgrades? Or will there be cuts in all these areas, and others?
The answers will be known within a couple of weeks. For more detailed information on the budget and the decisions faced by council see an earlier The Nelson Daily story here. And for a summary of requests made by community groups to council this year, click here.
This article was edited on March 28 to adjust the amount of the snow removal budget.