City budget: new money, new projects, uncertain wage settlements
Nelson City Council passed this year’s budget, along with its projected five year financial plan, at its Monday meeting, hoping it can achieve wage increases of less than 2% in its negotiations with four unions in the coming year.
A 2% tax increase and some new money from other sources made it easier to balance the budget than in some previous years, according to Chief Financial Officer Colin McClure.
The tax increase and concurrent increases to sewer and water rates will amount to a rise of about $71 per household for the year. The sewer and water rate increases will fund the ongoing replacement of old pipes and other infrastructure, a multi-year project.
The lifting of the GST on parking meter revenues has created $50,000 in new revenue for the year that will go to the current improvements under the Downtown Waterfront Master Plan. To read an October, 2012, story in The Nelson Daily about that plan click here.
The city will gain an additional $140,000 from the retirement of a 20-year-old debt that was incurred to build the lakeside playing fields. For this year only, the money that was used to pay that loan will go to improvement in city parks.
The city’s annual dividend from Nelson Hydro is $125,000 larger this year, and revenue from taxes and fees on new construction developments is $70,000 higher.
The new budget will fund the hiring of a building maintenance manager (a new position) and increase the police budget to allow for the hiring of an additional officer.
A reserve fund has been established to further the development of the downtown and waterfront plan and money will be saved through the city’s restructuring of its planning department.
Some community groups and city commissions received increases. The Cultural Development Commission received a 40% increase in funding over last year, Touchstones 2% more, and the Capitol Theatre 7%. The Nelson Sports Council, the Economic Development Partnership, the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Centre, and the Arts Council all received no increase over last year (having not requested any increase).
The city’s total contribution to those groups amounts to about 1.3% of its total budget. To read more detail about the groups’ funding requests for this year, click here for a February 2013 story in the The Nelson Daily.
The big unknown: labour negotiations
The contacts of all four of the unions at the city have now expired, and negotiations are now underway with two of them. The budget assumes that settlements can be achieved that are in line with inflation (under 2%).
To read more about this in an earlier story in The Nelson Daily, click here.
Concern for low-income residents
Councillor Robin Cherbo said he did not like the tax increase because it would create hardship for people on fixed incomes, but he voted in favour of it. Councillor Bob Adams agreed with Cherbo and voted against the adoption of the budget.
To read a March 2013 story in The Nelson Daily about some background issues leading up to this year’s budget and the city’s rationale for it, click here.