The District of Lantzville found a few areas in which it could provide some property tax relief, but voted against accessing reserves to offer further tax relief.
District council made budgeting decisions at meetings April 27 and May 4 ahead of a deadline this month to finalize its financial plan.
Council voted unanimously to approve COVID-19-related budget savings found by district staff, such as professional development opportunities, conferences and support for certain community events. The 11 line items totalled $56,850, allowing for a three per cent decrease to the municipality’s tax requisition.
In early April, Mayor Mark Swain had put forward a motion to access $250,000 from the general operating surplus reserve, which he said would have reduced the planned 23 per cent tax increase to about 10 per cent.
However, the motion failed 3-2 at the April 27 meeting.
Coun. Will Geselbracht said using reserves for operations “is simply going down the road of current gain for future pain” and said projects such as replacing roads and infrastructure never gets cheaper.
Coun. Karen Proctor noted that other levels of government are offering forms of pandemic relief this year, but there are no assurances about next year, and she estimated that dipping into reserves in 2020 would mean that taxpayers would “get whammied with a 28-per cent increase” in 2021.
“I think that we need to, yes, make cuts within our budget with things we’re not doing, but not just sort of pull from surplus,” Coun. Jamie Wilson said.
Swain’s motion was supported by Coun. Ian Savage, who said he would classify the pandemic as an emergency.
At the May 4 meeting, staff presented a list of line items to potentially remove from the budget during the COVID-19 crisis. Council did end up revoking funding for September’s Minetown Day, though there was some discussion.
“I feel like when we all come out of this and as restrictions become relaxed gradually, I’d like to see it there as a placeholder…” Wilson said. “Bringing the community together is what we’re all going to be thirsting for and there’s going to be a lot of pride around it.”
He said leaving Minetown Day in the budget would help the community be hopeful during the pandemic, but Proctor suggested council would show better leadership by underlining that large gatherings can’t happen.
“I get the spirit of this,” Swain added. “It does sadden me that we’re not going to have Minetown Day. I think it’s a reality that I’m accepting. I don’t think things are going to be bouncing back as we would wish.”