This Monday, September 29, 2014 there will be an hour long eTown Hall meeting starting at 7:00 pm where the public can ask questions about the City of Nanaimo’s budget.
Here is a look at Nanaimo’s tax increases. According to the City’s finance manager the 6.1% increase in taxes for 2017 is for the $80 million dollar water treatment plant and the 6.5% increase in 2007 was for extra staff at the RCMP. The $100 million conference centre costs have been spread out.
What is our biggest expense? You can see that wages and benefits are the largest portion of the pie chart below, at 47%. The second largest expense is the RCMP contract at 17% of the total operating expenses. The policing contract costs Nanaimo taxpayers just over $19 million per year and will increase to $20 million next year. Since 2008 it works out to an increase of almost $7 million.
Service supply contracts account for the third largest City expenditure. One of the problems is that the City has sole source contracts. Without allowing other companies to bid, taxpayers are not getting the best deal and this leads to inflated project costs.
Taxes are projected to increase every year over the next five years ranging from 1% to 5% for asset management of roads, sewer, and water.
You can see that the debt has increased significantly since the City took on building the convention centre. This space unfortunately has been underused with empty retail spaces. The City built a new administration building in 2011-2012 at a cost of about $18 million.
Below are some projects scheduled for the next 5 years. You will notice that the Colliery Dams project is not listed. If it goes ahead this will be another multi-million dollar project, and to date taxpayers have spent $2.4 million in consultant fees.
Other items that are not included in the financial plan are the Port Theatre expansion, waterfront development, property acquisition, recreation or heritage planning.
One problem is that there has been no accounting of the total cost of ‘aiding’ developers. Two new hotels in downtown Nanaimo will receive 20 years tax free. Nanaimo City Hall bloggers have estimated that the new Hilton Hotel will cost taxpayers over $21 million dollars. What about the other hotel next to the conference centre?
In other instances, developers wanted fines waived, or free pedestrian crosswalks like the one on Terminal, or sidewalks in industrial areas or water and sewer hook-ups like those in Linley Valley and Upper Lantzville.
On a side note, Councillor McKay asked council for $10,000 for the upcoming Zero Waste Conference. There were no grant applications filled out, and no request for public funding was made by the organizers. But council approved the request anyway. Even Councillor Greves joked “are we writing a cheque to McKay?” Yet at the same time other non-profits had filled out applications for small amounts of money and were turned down. Very strange.
People complain we don’t have money to purchase parks or support the arts but if we look at the generous handouts that select groups and individuals are getting, it is not an even playing field.
The City of Nanaimo has an annual operating budget of $160 million. The target is to present the 2015-2019 financial plan to the new council in December 2014. Go ahead and ask your financial questions on Monday, September 29, 2014. Call 250-754-4251 or tweet @cityofnanaimo, facebook cityofnanaimo, and get some answers.