Budget 2021 – ADRA Response

This is an extract of the letter sent by ADRA to Mayor and Council.
The full text can be viewed in the right-side-panel.

Dear Madam Mayor and Council,

Many in the private sector have been laid off or are working reduced hours and have had their pay frozen or reduced. Many small businesses are struggling or have had to close down at great personal cost to owners and employees alike.  Many seniors are on fixed incomes and with record low interest rates have seen their income decline or had to take additional risk to their capital to preserve income.

It is in this context that I write to you with regard to the Budget 2021. I attended the Budget Presentation on January 28 and have had a short time since to review some of the details. I am sure you will all agree that given an inflation rate of around 1% a 5.2% increase in property taxes proposed by staff seems to be unreasonable. For many years now property taxes have increased well above the rate of inflation. The Public sector cannot just continue to download increasing costs through increased taxes to Residents and Businesses. They need to seriously evaluate how to reduce these costs and the burden on taxpayers.

In addition to the concern about the 5.2% proposed property tax increase (and this does not include any increases re Translink, School Taxes and Utilities usage).  ADRA has the following concerns:

  • Costs are proposed to increase 6.3% or $6.3 million. $1.4 million of this relates to adding 13 new full time staff. Surely we should be freezing recruitment, reallocating staff from under resourced areas to where more staff are required. In addition we should be at least freezing salaries for non-union staff and management.
  • Revenues include a $4 million of a one-time $5 million Grant from the Province of BC related to COVID Safe Restart. $4 million has also been added to expenses. The BC Government provided guidance to CAO’s as to what is considered as eligible costs under the program and the money can be used in 2020, 2021 or 2022.

$1.7 million is related to Support for Strategic Objectives and it is particularly hard to see how any of this relates to COVID Safe Restart in any way. Much of it is for Consulting for things such as Environmental Strategy Update, Transportation Consultant Service, Strategic Transportation Plan, Public education events re Climate Change, Ambleside Town Centre Planning etc.

Particularly egregious is $312,000 re planning for a yet to be approved Arts Centre.

None of the $1.7 million seem to be eligible and certainly do not seem to be being spent under the spirit of the intent the BC Government gave the Grant to Cities and Municipalities.

  • In the General Fund summary it is proposed that $2.9 million from projected land sales are including in Operating Revenue. We would suggest that this is highly inappropriate and that such funds be allocated to the Endowment Fund or the Asset Reserve fund for deferred maintenance of Municipal Assets.

In closing, the above are issues that stand out to us from a very preliminary review of the proposed Budget 2021 and we would hope, as you consider the Budget, you will take into account the comments above.

Sincerely, Heather Mersey, President, ADRA