Opinion

Rossland mayor responds to letter on city financials

Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore. - File photo
Rossland Mayor Kathy Moore.
— image credit: File photo

Dear Rosslanders:

I want to respond to the letter to the editor, “Perspective on supporting city finances” in the May 4 edition of the Rossland News.

It is important to the City, and to your Council, that we have accurate information out to the public. We certainly appreciate citizens coming forward with their concerns and we are happy to provide information and clarification on the points that have been raised.

Residents are always welcome to contact our Chief Financial Officer, who is a Chartered Public Accountant (CPA), with their questions.

It’s also quite unusual to have a citizen implore us to raise taxes instead of lower them. This is a point of view that is quite refreshing.

The letter makes some good points but also misses the mark on a few things.

The issues expressed can be summarized as follows:

Concern that the City keep up or improve its quality of services and attractive amenities, and not focus on lowering taxes (because lowering taxes means lowering levels of service and letting infrastructure deficits build up, as has happened in the past not only in Rossland, but nation-wide).

Concern that the tax increases in the 2017 to 2021 financial plan may not be enough to cover the interest charges on the City’s borrowing for infrastructure improvements.

Here is a quick review of the concerns and our response:

1. Keep up or improve quality of services: This is being done and managed appropriately. The only area where city services were reduced was in regards to the Recreation budget, specifically the arena ice 2016-2017 season was shortened in order to keep the arena operating at maximum capacity and efficiency, and to match supply with demand. Per a resolution of Council, grants to community groups are held at a rate of 5 per cent of tax revenue, which increases year to year as a result. There has been no change to our snow-clearing or removal budget. We have made considerable investment in our IT services to provide better customer service and improve employee productivity.

2. Taxes are not being raised high enough: Taxes are being raised responsibly and this isn’t the only focus. $250,000 was cut from the 2017 budget where staff made improvements through better use of resources and implementing operating efficiencies, this is ongoing. Council and staff are cognizant of the importance managing taxpayer funds appropriately. According to the financial plan proposed for 2017-2021 rates are increasing for both property, water and sewer taxes. Bear in mind, the financial plan is updated every year so these numbers may change.

3. Concern that tax increases in the 2017 to 2021 financial plan may not be enough to cover the interest charges. This is not correct.

Interest is accounted for in our plan and has been increased in 2017 and onward to accommodate the additional $4M in debt that will transferred from short term borrowing in the fall of 2017 to long term borrowing. This enables us to take advantage of short-term borrowing rates as long as possible. Also, the debt principle payments in the plan have been increased as well.

4. Concern that we are somehow continuing to avoid our financial responsibilities.

This is not true. There is no revenue shortfall, the budget is balanced as per the Bylaw and Provincial regulations. Finances and operations are being managed responsibly.

According to public consultation, tax rate increases are deemed acceptable between 2 to 5 per cent and the city is striving to work within those guidelines.

In addition, it is always important for Council to consider all of our taxpayers some are more able to absorb tax increases than others.

We do our best to strike the proper balance. I’ll take this opportunity to point out some of the major investments that we have made in our infrastructure in recent years and how they have been funded. We’ve been very aggressive about addressing critical infrastructure projects and, to the best of our ability, will continue to do so.

2012 - Columbia project over $6.5M: water, sewer, roads, streetscaping. This project was self-funded through debt and reserves; no grants.

2016 - Washington project was an over $6M infrastructure improvement funded by 33 per cent in grants, the rest in debt and with surplus.

2017 - Spokane street improvements, with updated figures this project is going to cost about $6M, funded by 83 per cent in grants, and the remainder with capital reserves.

2017 - Almost half a million spent on Inflow and Infiltration. The project will be funded 83 per cent in grants, the rest from reserves and will mitigate Regional Sewer Utility costs in the long term.

2017 - $75,000 in grant funds spent on an Asset Management Investment Plan to improve management of resources and aid in future planning the City’s $41M in asset infrastructure

2017 - Large investments in both the Miners Hall and the Museum with substantial grant support will also be completed this year.

Also, it is important to note that Council does not have the impression that our community is “stagnating or experiencing negative growth.”

We are proud of the vibrancy of our community and the many young families who have recently moved here. Many thanks to Ms. Nightingale for opening up this topic and I hope this additional information is helpful.

Kathy Moore

Mayor of Rossland

 

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