November 11, 2015
By this time of the year with Christmas just six weeks away, Council is already deep into planning the budget for next year. You’d think we have it down pat. Well, we are sort of familiar with the process and the needs but “down pat” is not where it is.
Budgets are somewhat fluid constructs. No matter how much we plan, strategize, and agonize there are always surprises. It’s the human condition to live in an unpredictable world. My old uncle, old when I was a kid, taught me that nothing is sure but death and taxes. I’m not sure he believed the maxim and I don’t subscribe to this philosophy; human experience could convince us that death may be sure and taxes unavoidable but other, happier sureties, are better guides to right decision making.
So let’s get back to the budget with its unavoidable link to taxes.
Strong budgets are built on a foundation of sound philosophies and time-honored principles. When a Council decides based on principle and established philosophy, it is less likely that it will stray into the quicksand of special-interest.
I’ll share some of these philosophies and principles with you.
Annual Increases in Requisitions. The District of Chetwynd is the tax collection agency for a number of authorities that include School District, Regional District, Hospital, Police, and a few others that independently set their own tax rates. Non-controllable cost increases due to requisitioning by these authorities should be passed on to the Chetwynd taxpayer. For the District of Chetwynd to absorb them would only erode the Municipality’s ability to provide the public services required by the citizens of Chetwynd. Hence, every increase you see on your tax notice cannot be attributed to Chetwynd Council.
From time to time the District acquires land. Sales of these properties should not be placed in general revenue but into special reserve funds to finance new capital infrastructure. Furthermore, land acquired through tax sales should be appraised and resold as soon as possible to return the properties to the private sector where they will generate additional tax revenue.
User fees should be implemented whenever possible to relieve the pressure on the taxpayer. User fees are most readily applied to such services as the airport, water, sewer and garbage collection.
Finally, operational efficiencies should be encouraged whenever possible and employees should be encouraged to share their experiences in conserving time and costs.
These are the basic budget philosophies and principles that will help to guide the development of next year’s budget. Other considerations will naturally give direction to the way funds are allocated. Streets and lanes have received significant funding over the last three years. The fact is, during the last three seasons we have actually accomplished year four of our five-year paving plan.
Following the completion of the year-five plan, Council may decide to focus on streets where more sub-surface work is required. The net result of this will eventually be a more reliable water and sewer system.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor