Kimberley’s Mayor, Council and staff have been grinding through the arduous budget process for a couple of months now, trying to find new savings and ways to limit property tax increases.
“A four per cent increase for homeowners and three per cent increase for business taxes was built into the financial plan last year,” McCormick said. “The difficulty I have with that is that by building in that four per cent increase, basically it means you are over spending. You are spending money you have not yet collected.” We are endeavouring to get away from that.”
Ideally, the tax increase should be zero, the Mayor says. Getting to that ideal is not going to be easy, even with savings found within the operational budget.
“Right now the cost of living is increasing. The city has its own COLA and it’s three percent,” McCormick said. “It’s not just inflation but contractual commitments. The union wage increase is 2.5 per cent this year. So to et to zero we need three per cent in cuts to the budget.”
McCormick says that over the last several months, an internal service review has been conducted.
“We managed to cut $130,000 off expenditures. That’s about 1.5 per cent. We continue to look for additional ways to cut expenses.”
Non-profit groups, who regularly appeal to the city for assistance are still being considered. McCormick says that Councillors Goodwin and Roberts are in the process of drafting a policy on how to approach these annual grant applications.
A part of that is looking at best practices from other municipalities.
“Between grants to non-profits, fee for service arrangements, grants to organizations like Tourism Kimberley, tax exemptions — the value of that approaches $500,000 a year. That’s six or seven per cent of our current millrate taxes.
“We are trying to take a balanced approach,” he said. “There are services and organizations that, if we don’t support them, they won’t be there. We are creating a policy, we haven’t had one before. We are looking at how much the City should allocate in total, the types of organizations we should be spending on.”
As for the rest of the budget, it doesn’t have to be approved until May. The capital budget is done and the operations side is under scrutiny now.
“Council has put in a lot of hours on this,” McCormick. “We have been meeting one and two times a week for a couple of months. The discussion has been broad, there’s been good debate. We want to come up with the best possible budget we can.”