White Rock mayor lauds staff for finding prospective cuts

Reducing tax increase has ‘implications’ for White Rock – Kurylo

White Rock city staff have met a call to reduce a proposed property tax increase by nearly half.

But the cuts to get there, totalling $360,000, come with a price, the city’s financial services director said.

“One of the implications… is there’s going to be a bit of a bump (in taxes) next year unless other offsets can be found,” Sandra Kurylo told members of the city’s finance and audit committee Tuesday.

Last week, after reviewing a 2012-2016 draft financial plan that proposed a property tax increase of 4.57 per cent, the committee asked Kurylo and staff for a budget detailing no more than a 2.5 per cent increase.

Mayor Wayne Baldwin said at the time that anything higher would be inappropriate given the economy.

Tuesday, prior to the committee endorsing the revisions, Baldwin commended what staff came up with, describing the results as “a real service to citizens of the city.”

Reductions proposed to help reach the goal include removing six months’ funding for the currently vacant director of leisure services and manager of engineering positions, for a savings of $124,000; reducing by $150,000 the allocation of general revenue to capital projects; and reducing the city’s contribution to its parking reserve fund by $30,000.

As well, the draft assumes requested one-time increases to the chamber of commerce and Tourism White Rock budgets will be funded from the 2011 projected surplus.

Kurylo, noting the operating budget has been “cut for a number of years now,” said finding any savings was difficult, particularly without impacting services and within the short timeframe given.

As proposed, the 2.5 per cent increase equates to a $65-jump on an average single-family home and an extra $28 on the average strata property. The projected increase for 2013 rises to 4.13 per cent, followed by decreases in each of the next three years, to a low of 2.81 in 2016.

Kurylo said a survey of 12 municipalities, including White Rock, showed the average property tax increase being considered is 3.18 per cent.

She said the “ripple effect” of White Rock’s proposed increase is a recommended cut to general revenue for capital projects – $450,000 over the next five years. However, staff identified a chunk of that, $250,000, could be recovered from funds not used for projects in 2011.

Prior to supporting the new draft, Coun. Louise Hutchinson asked for assurances that waterfront improvements will not fall by the wayside under the new budget.

“West Beach is a really high-profile area for landscaping. That’s what’s looking sort of lacking down there,” she said.

Noting the plan is to enhance the area within the existing budget, the city’s director of municipal operations and engineering, Rob Thompson, said priority is being given to assess and address a complicated drainage issue in a West Beach parking lot.

Thompson added that a request to bump up planned improvements for a stretch of west Marine Drive is expected to give citizens and visitors a new road by May 2013.

The public is invited to comment on the plan during a 7 p.m. meeting Monday (March 12) at city hall, 15322 Buena Vista Ave.