Skip to content

Council drafts zero increase budget

Public info meeting Tuesday at Muni Hall John French Chief Staff Writer Mayor Ian Sutherland said he wanted a zero per cent budgetary increase and this week Squamish council made it happen.

Public info meeting Tuesday at Muni Hall

John French

Chief Staff Writer

Mayor Ian Sutherland said he wanted a zero per cent budgetary increase and this week Squamish council made it happen.

On Tuesday (April 20), council put the finishing touches on its five-year financial plan by bringing the 2004 proposed expenditures in line with the revenues expected to come into the District of Squamish's coffers.

Sutherland told the Squamish Chamber of Commerce last month that he hoped the end result of the budget process would bring a zero per cent increase for the average homeowner.

Despite council's holding the line on taxes, residents living in homes hit with assessed value increases above the average can expect to pay more.

Property taxes are based on the assessed values of property, which have skyrocketed in Squamish in the past year.

Sutherland told The Chief in February that homeowners whose property value increased more than 28 per cent in the past year would likely see tax increases this year.

After weeks of setting priorities and taking proposed expenditures out of this year's spending, council ended discussion this week by voting to expend $5,000 to assist the farmers' market that will run this summer. Coun. Corinne Lonsdale voted against the expenditure, saying she feels taxpayers should not subsidize the vendors participating in the market.

Along with discussing financial support for the market council agreed that the market is better termed a public market and not a farmers' market because only a small percentage of the goods sold at the market last year was considered farmed goods.

Council also asked staff to look into exploring how supportive downtown merchants are to having the market operate on Winnipeg Street between Second Avenue and the vehicle access to the parking lots that serve Home Hardware and the Royal Bank. Council agreed that the location on Winnipeg proved popular and successful for the Wild at Art Festival.

Along with the $5,000 for marketing of the market, council voted to spend $220,000 for a new community amenity building that can serve as the location for the public market.

Council envisions the building going up near the Squamish Yacht Club.

"What we have done, in the budget process, we have taken the diking for downtown which is $325,000, the community amenity building at $220,000 and the budget of $60,000 to expand the yacht club and we're taking money out of the Business Park fund to pay for those projects," Sutherland said. "Land values have increased in the Business Park and we are selling properties in the Business Park. That is leading to having more money than we need for servicing the Business Park.

"That is one of the reasons we were able to have the zero per cent tax increase for the mythical average home."

The controversial two per cent budget solution proposed by council is going ahead. Council decided that one way to save money is to cut the core budget of each department by two per cent. Sutherland argued that history shows departments can make the savings through avoiding a year-end surplus. He also said history shows that almost every department saves a bit of money every year on salaries when positions sit open for weeks on end while employee searches are conducted.

"The two per cent will be at the discretion of the CAO [Chief Administrative Officer] to affect that reduction based on the history of the department and the history of budget surpluses in the department," Sutherland said the morning after council reached consensus on the budget.

A public information meeting is set for Tuesday (April 27) at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at Municipal Hall.

"We did one last year at the Sea to Sky Hotel and we had a pretty good turnout," Sutherland said. "It doesn't matter if they are in favour or have problems with it, we want to hear from them [residents]."

Ralph Hughes of the financial services department will put together an information package that will be presented at the information meeting.

Lonsdale asked that a report be created in time for the meeting that will outline the dollar impact the proposed budget will have on a range of homes in various neighbourhoods. Sutherland said such a report will be created to show how different assessments will impact different people.

Despite the zero per cent increase proposed by council, residents with extraordinarily high property assessment increases will see tax increases.

"With the zero per cent we have minimized that to our best ability," Sutherland said. "We don't have any power over those assessments."

Council will listen to the feedback from residents and go back to the budget to either confirm the decisions already made or refine the budget based on public reaction.

"The budget is still a work in progress but we want to look at the impact on individual taxpayers and anything else that will come forward," Sutherland said.

According to the mayor, the budget is now 95 per cent complete. One of the main things still left to do is tax shifting. In the last few years council shifted some of the tax burden from business and industry to homeowners.

Sutherland is happy with how the budget process went and the way councillors worked together to create the five-year financial plan. "There really was a true spirit of co-operation amongst council," he said.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks