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Budget COW Trudges On

Council faces tough decisions in the next month

Budget discussions continued at a Committee of the Whole (COW) meeting Tuesday night. All members of Council were present, with both Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Ross Blackwell and Public Works Manager Karl Buhr seated in the gallery. Two residents attended in person, with a further seven present online.

The budget deadline is May 15, but despite advice from Blackwell not to go over the same ground already covered, discussion centred almost entirely on the early pages of the proposed budget. These outline capital expenditures and items that are needed but will likely be deferred to another year.

General discussion included:

  • whether a contingency of $100,000 for water projects, already approved in a previous budget but still unspent, should be included this year or shelved for the future;

  • whether the 75 percent funding available from Translink for a potential "connector project" justifies the outlay of an additional $100,000 of taxpayer money;

  • a late request to establish a $200,000 water emergency reserve fund, in anticipation of the expected drought this summer.

  • a discussion of undertaking a cost/benefit analysis of bylaw enforcement costs, including the burden enforcement adds to staff time. In response to a query from Councillor Michael Broughton regarding a 22 percent increase in bylaw costs, Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff explained that parking meter costs (previously included in the PW department budget), have been moved to the bylaw budget. After the meeting, Chirkoff clarified to The Watershed that there is no impact on the overall budget from this move.

  • continued concern over removal of the jetty repair from the scope of the 75 percent-funded Lions Bay Beach Park (LBBP) project, and into a project fully-funded by taxpayers.

  • There was also some contentious debate about this year's delayed audit, which has resulted in a much higher cost than in past years, and a heated disagreement over the reasons behind the increase.

While discussion also arose around the implication of taxation increases over time, Council has yet to settle on a final rate of taxation for this year.

Councillor Neville Abbott spoke to the importance of a critical review of all expenditures, and reminded councillors that this was a promise made during the election campaign. Mayor Ken Berry indicated that Council is in the process of embarking on a strategic plan, which he said should be helpful to that process.

The public meeting ended with an adjournment to allow Council to move into closed session. As of this writing, the next regular meeting of Council is set for 7 p.m. on April 16, with another COW meeting not scheduled until May 7, though this may change with the impending budget deadline.

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Norma Rodgers
Norma Rodgers
Apr 04

I hope that readers of The Watershed will subscribe so that kc dyer can generate some meagre income from all the work she does as a service to our community.

I am appalled at Councillor Broughton's contribution to last night's COW. He suggested that Council should decide on a lower tax increase than proposed even though CAO Blackwell said in previous meetings that our village is not sustainable based on our tax base and needs. Councillor Broughton also mentioned the need to bring down our legal costs when these extra costs were imposed on the village by Council's termination of the previous CAO.

It seems ironic that Councillor Broughton wants to reduce bylaw enforcement costs by a few thousand a…

Replying to

Norma, I am also concerned about the increased costs of the audit and the legal fees, and every taxpayer should be asking why these amounts have tripled and could go even higher. In the past, I think we had only one legal firm, but now we seem to have three or even four, I believe. Why? One issue worth noting is that our previous CAO, who was also a lawyer, did a lot of the preliminary legal work in his own time, just to help out the village, so saving us tens of thousands of dollars.

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