An increasing number of popular special events organized by the City of White Rock – among them, latterly, the Sea Festival (including the traditional waiters’ race, above) – come with budgetary impacts that are currently being mulled by council in its 2020-2024 financial plan deliberations. File photo

White Rock financial plan discussions reveal divide

Mayor Darryl Walker favours tax increase, some councillors don’t

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said he’s in favour of a tax increase for the city – even though some other council members have said they favour a zero increase or even a decrease in taxes for 2020.

“If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward,” Walker said. “We can’t say no to everything – or we really don’t have anything.”

Walker’s comments came at the end of a Tuesday night session of council – meeting as the Finance and Audit committee – chaired by Coun. Erika Johanson.

It was only a first step in extended budget deliberations that will involve public meetings on Feb. 10 and April 27, before an amended 2020 to 2024 financial plan bylaw is finally adopted in early May.

But philosophical differences were already coming to the fore as council members wrestled with the city’s draft financial plan – and particularly a wish list of unfunded items for 2020 – during which they were reminded frequently by Coun. Christopher Trevelyan that each item could represent a percentage increase in next year’s taxes.

That’s above and beyond a 3.9 per cent property tax increase staff say is already necessitated by increased costs and potential revenue shortfalls.

As laid out in a report on the draft financial plan by financial services director Sandra Kurylo, a 3.9 per cent increase would have an impact of an additional $130 on the tax bill of an average detached single family home, or a $49 increase for an average strata property in the city.

“That’s not a lot of money,” Coun. Helen Fathers said.

But Coun. Anthony Manning noted “$130 for some of our residents is quite a stretch.”

At the heart of the preliminary discussion was the balance between what council wants to achieve in terms of operational transparency – and boosting visitor and resident appeal through increased events in the city – and what members believe taxpayers can afford.

Council members gave endorsement in principle, through majority votes, to a series of unfunded items, while acknowledging that savings must be pursued in other budget areas to reduce a potential tax increase.

Items endorsed included adding a purchasing officer staff position; additional hours for bylaw enforcement staff; and converting a temporary full-time committee clerk position to regular full time (chief administrative officer Dan Bottrill noted that, in its first year, the current council has doubled the number of city committees, and doubled the frequency with which they meet).

They also voted in favour of hiring a special events assistant for eight months in the year (recreation and culture director Eric Stepura said the number of events organized by the city has increased significantly, leading the city’s special events co-ordinator to book more than 100 hours in overtime this year), and also backed an increase to the operations budget to support the level of special events planned for 2020.

In addition, council also voted in favour of increased park maintenance of hillside walkways, more money for perennial and annual plants throughout the city, and funding a new full-time regular ‘trades’ gardener; as well as earmarking $5,000 to maintain the same fee for service for the South Surrey and White Rock Chamber of Commerce and an increase to the White Rock Museum and Archives grant of $25,000.

Budget discussions also led to comparisons with other municipalities.

Walker said that conversations he has had with Village of Belcarra Mayor Neil Belenkie (who, like Walker, was elected at the end of 2018, along with three new councillors) suggest that years of zero-tax-increase budgeting have not served that community well.

“They’re dead broke – they have nothing to do anything with,” he said, arguing that some additional expenditures are always going to be necessary for the ultimate health of the city.

“It’s like not putting a roof on your building or oil in your car,” Walker said. “We want (the community) to move forward.”

Coun. Scott Kristjanson, who said he would prefer a decrease in property taxes, said he favoured the approach taken by the City of Port Coquitlam, which he held up as a model of budgeting based on council priorities, moving that staff prepare a financial plan draft along similar lines.

But Bottrill said it might be hard to match current budget items closely with previously determined council strategic priorities.

Walker said he thought that rather than budgeting on “what we ran on,” council’s obligation was to respond to the needs of people in the community as they emerge.

Kristjanson withdrew his original motion in favour of another asking staff to look at Port Coquitlam’s budgeting approach “to see if that would work for us”.

A majority of the committee also passed a motion from Trevelyan that asked staff to investigate other potential savings in the budget to find funding for the items it had endorsed at the meeting. Further discussion of the city’s draft financial plan by the Finance and Audit committee was scheduled for Thursday.



alex.browne@peacearchnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sold-out in Surrey: the ‘Second Coming of Delamont’s ‘God is a Scottish Drag Queen’

‘The title tends to scare a few people away,’ Victoria-based performer says of his hit show

White Rock neighbours to host second-annual ‘Feast for Friends’

Victoria Terrace residents to raise money for food bank

Task force brainstorms on support for Semiahmoo homeless community

Community service providers gather to discuss options for housing, income safety and more

Two people reportedly sent to hospital after two-vehicle collision in Surrey

Collision happened on the 16500-block of 64 Avenue

South Surrey couple donates $250K to students in honour of late son

Joseph Chung Scholarship Fund helps out 100 post-secondary students

Officials reaching out to those in contact with Canada’s first coronavirus patient

The illness has sickened at least 1,975 people and killed 56 in China

Canada’s basketball community mourns Kobe Bryant after helicopter crash

Bryant was an 18-time NBA all-star who won five championships

‘Devastated’: Fans, celebrities remember Kobe Bryant after his death

Bryant played all of his 20-year career with the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers

Investigation launched after six dead puppies dumped in Richmond hotel parking lot

RAPS reminds people they can always give up puppies they can’t take care of

Canadian Lunar New Year celebrations dampened by coronavirus worries

But Health Minister Patty Hajdu said today that the risk of infection is low

Man clings to roof of car driving along busy road in Maple Ridge

The man was also seen jumping on the vehicle

B.C. VIEWS: New coronavirus outbreak an important reminder

Walking the line between cautious and alarmist

Kobe Bryant, daughter killed in California helicopter crash

Bryant entered the NBA draft straight out of high school in 1996

Most Read