Lamb calls for line item review of Sechelt budget

Budget bylaws up for first readings April 17

Sechelt councillor Tom Lamb says he wants to go over “each line item” in the proposed 2019 budget again, before voting on a potential 8.45 per cent tax increase.

Lamb made the comments at the April 10 committee of the whole meeting, where councillors were expected to review and endorse a tax rate structure based on an 5.45 per cent increase in taxation to cover the operating budget and a 3 per cent increase for capital reserves.

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The ratio between business tax rates and the rate for other property classes, the so-called multiplier, would go up slightly from 2.37 to 2.39.

Councllor Alton Toth said he was comfortable with the small increase.

“Allowing the multiplier to creep up allows unfair advantages to home-based businesses, mobile vendors, etc. There’s a balance there,” Toth said. “Somewhere down the road we need to look at businesses licensing fees too, perhaps.”

On the question of the overall tax increase, however, Lamb, told the committee he wanted to look at the budget to reduce the amount that would have to be raised through taxes, which director of finance Doug Stewart estimated at $9.3 million.

“I’m really struggling with the increase in the budget and how you move forward. It’s not about this budget, it’s about the future budgets as we move along. I just see that if we don’t start getting a hold of the budget you can see double-digit [tax increase] budgets become the norm,” Lamb said. “I think that we have to have a really serious look at how we move forward with this budget.”

When asked by councillor Janice Kuester what he was proposing, Lamb said it was a line-by-line review.

The financial plan and tax rate bylaws were scheduled to go to council for three readings at the April 17 council meeting, but Stewart told the committee that if councillors wanted a further review it could still be done in time for the budget deadline although a special council meeting would likely have to scheduled in early May.

Although the committee did not vote, as anticipated, on whether to recommend the 8.45 per cent tax increase, it did vote to set the business multiplier at 2.39 regardless of what the final tax increase is.

There was less reluctance over a recommendation to increase the septage fees.

Sechelt operates a septage receiving station on Dusty Road that serves all property owners with septic, holding tanks and portable washrooms on the Sunshine Coast.

A written report to the committee said the cost of operating the receiving station is about $298,490 per year, while fees are only bringing in about $260,000.

The committee voted to recommend a 15 per cent increase in the biosolids disposal fee to 23 cents per imperial gallon, which would generate an extra $39,000 in yearly revenue.

That recommendation was also expected to go to full council for ratification April 17.

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