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Council Gives Final Reading to Budget, Five-Year Plan Bylaws

Special Council Meeting cancelled due to lack of quorum


After a hard-fought and protracted effort, Council gave final reading to a number of outstanding bylaws at a special meeting held on April 23.


The first three bylaws, whose wording can be found on the agenda HERE, addressed the rates and regulation of water (beginning on page 4), sewer (page 8), and garbage and recycling collection (page 12). All three passed.


The five-year financial plan (page 16), however, proved more of a stumbling block, and discussion took up most of the rest of Tuesday's meeting. Councillor Michael Broughton's chief objection continued to be that the budget calls for a 9% tax increase rather than his preferred 6%. He reminded Council that his amendment to increase taxes by 6% had been defeated at an earlier meeting.


Financial Officer Joe Chirkoff said that in his opinion, a 9% increase "is the lowest rate that is both prudent financially and acceptable by the community." He added the figure is just a starting point. "We're going to need a lot more money than this," as dollars must be set aside to help fund infrastructure repairs, unless 100% grants are found.


Broughton then proposed a 7% solution, arguing that increasing taxes is not the way to fund infrastructure costs and expressing concern over the cost of bylaw enforcement. This motion, too, went down to defeat.


Councillor Neville Abbott offered a number of amendments of his own. These included:

  • the removal of the jetty out of its current 100% tax-payer funded status and back under the auspices of the Lions Bay Beach Park (LBBP) project until another grant can be found to cover it. Defeated.

  • a review of administrative salaries, and an upward adjustment to reflect the actual number of staff currently working and anticipated for the rest of the year. Defeated.

  • that the legal budget be reduced from $80,000 to $40,000. Blackwell said Council should aim for a target of $20,000, however Chirkoff reiterated that $40,000 is a reasonable base figure. This motion carried.

  • that the audit budget for 2024 be increased by $55,000 to reflect current expenditures. Abbott added that Council needs to commit to never getting so far out of step with the auditors again, and that the budget numbers should reflect the actual expense of the audit this year. However, after Chirkoff's explanation of how the overrun will be handled, Abbott withdrew this proposed amendment.


Mayor Ken Berry continued to champion the Connector Project as a possible solution to the jetty problem. Blackwell confirmed he'd spoken with Translink regarding this option, which he referred to as a "mobility/connectivity spine" that would extend from the store down to the beach park. Blackwell said that Translink, which would cover 75% of the cost of the project, is receptive to the replacement of pathways, stairs and that the jetty may be included. However, discussion circled around the fact that this project has not yet been confirmed, and the motion was defeated.


After repeated defeats, Blackwell reminded Council that they had "run out of runway", and that they needed to find a motion that would pass. He said that Committee of the Whole (COW) meetings are the place for questions and debate, and Council meetings are the time for voting.


"This village is a long way from sustainable, and since many projects have been kicked down the road, those chickens are coming home to roost, and this is the reality when difficult decisions around tax increases come to council.


Chirkoff explained that funding all the projects proposed this year without a draw on reserves would require a 20% tax increase year over year.


Abbott said that having taxpayers on the hook for jetty costs means that he will vote against the budget. Reuter echoed this concern, and said he was also troubled by the anomalies in administrative costs.


Councillor Jaime Cunliffe proposed that the jetty issue be dealt with another year, however Broughton insisted that it puts the beach park at risk and must be addressed.


Reuter noted the main issue is how the repair will be funded; either fully by tax-payer dollars or at least partially covered by a grant.


A motion was made to pass the five-year plan, with Abbott's amendment reducing the legal fee budgeted amount to $40,000. With this amendment, third reading of the plan finally passed.


This was followed by a motion to set the tax rate at nine percent for 2024, which was given second and third reading. Prior to the final vote, Chirkoff said that this is the minimum increase required to maintain reserves. The motion carried.


And with no public questions, the meeting adjourned.


A special closed meeting was also called for Wednesday. Mayor Ken Berry and Councillor Michael Broughton were present, along with a guest, lawyer Don Lidstone. As no other councillors attended, after a 15-minute wait the meeting was cancelled due to a lack of quorum. No explanation was given for the presence of Lidstone, a managing partner with Lidstone & Co, which has represented council in a number of legal issues.


The next regularly scheduled meeting is a Committee of the Whole, set for Tuesday May 7 at 6 p.m.




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