The budget uses numbers from the 2014 B.C. Assessment to help calculate the total revenue the City will receive. Even without the final assessment numbers the budget gave Council the scope of funds needed to operate the city in 2015.
According to a PowerPoint presentation by the finance department, the goal of the city’s operating budget is to build a community that is fiscally sound, committed to public safety; with a focus on high quality services, including a vibrant city centre.
Some of the challenges presented to council when considering the operating budget are increases in B.C. Hydro rates, political pressures (i.e. the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and the Canadian Taxpayers Association), and community expectations for better or expanded services to name a few.
In addition, below is a chart of proposed operating projects. These projects are separate from any improvements they City has already planed in the 2015 capital budget. (Council and City staff will hold an open house on the capital budget Tuesday night, get more information on that meeting here).
When Councilor Bryon Stewart asked City Manager Dianne Hunter whether or not staff has created a priority list, she responded, “In presenting these plans to council, we did take a step back and really assessed whether we can deliver on them or not.
Hunter adds, “We took a look at this and we’ve all made a commitment to do our part in these plans, and that we can deliver on them; if not 100 per cent, they’re certainly going to be well under way.”
So will there be a tax increase in 2015?
Council will wait until early 2015 before approving the proposed operating budget. Staff still need the latest assessed values for properties in the City before deciding if there is a need to increase property taxes.
In 2014 Council was able to keep the tax rate the same as previous years because the value of homes and properties in Fort St. John increased. They hope they can accomplish that again in 2015 once the final assessed property values are known. Council and staff also believe that due to the dramatic increase in construction in 2014, those new properties will also help offset any increase in the operating budget.
Attached is a copy of the presentation staff made to Council at Monday’s Committee of the Whole.