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City of Campbell River aims to keep tax increase under 2.85 percent

The impact of the pandemic will be reflected in reduced community services for Campbell River next year.

Meeting from Monday to Wednesday this week, city council directed staff to find additional cost savings.

This comes after confirming, in principle, a budget that postpones projects and includes roughly $1.5 million in both temporary and permanent service reductions. 

“This includes half a million dollars in cuts from recreation programs, cuts to airport services, and hundreds of thousands in cuts across other city services.”

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The city says it wants to cap its property tax increase at no more than 2.85 per cent.

That equals out to about $79 for a $442,000 home.

They’ll be reviewing the budget again on Nov. 30, when more detailed estimates on new construction values are available from BC Assessment. 

The budget will be adopted in December, in time to submit to the province before year-end.

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Mayor Andy Adams points out that this is the sixth 10-year budget for Campbell River.

He added that the “principles of long-term vision and stable, predictable property tax rates are helping us get through the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“While the cuts reflect difficult, but necessary decisions, this budget still provides for renewal and replacement of aging infrastructure and funding to support new initiatives,” Adams said. 

“In 2021, there will be a stronger focus on downtown safety, economic development and new maintenance requirements for the Bike Skills Park and Robron Fieldhouse.”

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City manager Deborah Sargent said staff has “very carefully reviewed existing services to suggest cost-savings that minimize the effects on Council’s strategic priorities, community expectations and City operations.”

She’s reminding people that 2021 will not be a year to take on new community projects, and continue to encourage local organizations to use this time to work with city staff and start planning for projects they’d like to propose for future years.

The city says its property tax increase is in the mid-range of tax rates when compared against other British Columbia communities of similar size.

Along with property tax revenue, annual Community Works (Federal Gas Tax) funds and provincial gaming grants will go to community services and capital improvements, although funding from gaming has been significantly reduced due to COVID-19.

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“Campbell River’s 10-year Financial Plan continues to focus on stability and resiliency with an emphasis on fiscal conservatism given the many unknowns of the pandemic and the financial impacts that the City has experienced,” says Alaina Maher, the City’s director of finance and chief financial officer. 

“Early budgeting has helped the City be in a strategically advantageous position to make some very difficult decisions. 2021 financial planning has been particularly challenging as a result of lost revenue due to the pandemic. The financial plan focuses on isolating the COVID-19 impacts from ongoing budget pressures arising from contractual costs and inflationary items to minimize the impact to reserves and taxation.”

Ahead of the budget discussions, Council received three pieces of correspondence, from Greenways Land Trust, the Cycling Coalition, and a letter from a resident concerned about safety on Arizona Drive.

Cuts include:

  • $165,600 reduction in hours for airport administration and operations/maintenance
  • Social grants reduced to $50,000 with the remaining $50,000 to support downtown safety initiatives
  • $140K from Centennial Pool remaining closed in 2021
  • $356,300 in recreation programming reductions in 2021
  • $5,000 annual transfer to Twinning Society for 2021 to 2024
  • Other $360,200 in other permanent service reduction across many City departments
  • Reduced Council Contingency to $75,000 in 2021

You can view the  2021-2030 financial plan and recordings of the budget meetings on the city’s website.

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