Council for the District of Squamish has just about concluded the task of settling on a budget, and it appears the final document will carry a tax increase of 4.7 per cent for property owners, and a decrease of 2.7 per cent for businesses.
The increase means an additional $76 a year in taxes for owners of homes in the $450,000 range. The decrease will give owners of businesses valued at approximately $525,000 an annual savings of $142.
The overall tax increase for all classes averages out to just under three per cent.
Council held three readings on the final budget Monday (May 4), and intends to adopt the final document Tuesday (May 12), according to Mayor Greg Gardner.
The last days of deliberation took place for the better part of last week without Gardner as he took holidays. Upon his return to chambers Friday (May 1), the entire council made one last decision to slash approximately $150,000 from the budget by eliminating the Business Development department and the business lead position.
Also on Friday, the fate of the Squamish Sustainability Corporation (SSC), which is closely linked to business development, Tourism Squamish and the administration of the Adventure Centre, was also made unclear as the entire board tendered its resignation (see full story below).
The changes led to Tourism Squamish’s appeal to council for funding during a luncheon held on Monday, mere hours before council held first two readings on the budget.
Coun. Patricia Heintzman relayed Tourism Squamish’s concerns over funding shortfalls during final discussions, saying a “lean mean” budget to forward tourism initiatives such as the hotel tax, website marketing and tour packages, would require $214,000.
The budget currently includes only $157,000 for endeavours formerly overseen by the SSC.
“Are we shooting ourselves in the foot if we leave $157,000 in that [budget] line item?” asked Heintzman.
Gardner suggested there was no time to make changes, saying although council can still hold a discussion, “we have to settle on a budget.”
Gardner said the $157,000 was settled on since the same amount was budgeted for the SSC last year, and no formal budget request was made by the corporation’s board.
Administrative director Kim Anema said the SSC made an “informal” budget suggestion of $249,000, which was information he required to assess Adventure Centre building costs. He said he emailed that to certain council members.
Coun. Corinne Lonsdale said Tourism Squamish’s shortfall can be covered by the contingency fund, which amounts to $180,000. Coun. Rob Kirkham pointed out there is nothing budgeted for the municipal management of the Adventure Centre. Heintzman said she’s concerned the contingency fund may already be stretched too thin.
In the end, council unanimously supported first two readings of the budget without change. Although council rejected the notion of formally opening budget discussions to the public at t his late date – pointing to the community engagement already taken place via telephone surveys and a town hall meeting – members of the public are invited to view the entire budget package at Municipal Hall and email individual councillors with concerns before the final vote adopting the document Tuesday (May 12).