In an effort to help address a 2015 revenue shortfall and to avoid raising taxes by 4.1% just to maintain programs and services at 2014 levels, Quesnel City Council cut its own travel budget by 34% and made significant cuts to its discretionary spending. These cuts, along with Council’s previous decision to roll back its pre-election pay increase, are part of $600,000 in operational savings that Council’s Financial Sustainability Committee recommended in the City’s 2015 operating budget this week.
“I’m excited about the high level of direct involvement Councillors had in the creation of the budget this year and I’m pleased to be part of a team that wanted to take a leadership role in finding the cost savings we needed to maintain 2014 service levels without increasing property taxes for general revenue,” Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson stated.
The almost $600,000 revenue shortfall for 2015 is a result of the loss of industrial taxation from the Canfor mill closure and the reassessment of a West Fraser asset, inflationary pressures, and some minor supplemental expenses approved by Council. Senior management at City Hall has also agreed to a wage freeze in 2015 in order to help find the operational savings needed to maintain 2014 service levels without layoffs or staff cuts.
“In order to cover the 2015 revenue shortfall and to immediately address the City’s long standing annual infrastructure deficit of $2 million/year Council would have had to raise taxes by over 19% this year alone,” said Mayor Simpson. “Instead, by finding $600,000 in operating savings and by automatically applying any annual budget surplus to the capital reserve account Council believes it can address the City’s infrastructure deficit with a 5% tax increase for infrastructure only this year and next year.”
The $675,000 raised through a 5% tax increase would be transferred to the City’s Capital Reinvestment Reserve which can only be used for the repair and replacement of roads and sidewalks. The proposed 5% tax increase represents an increase of $34.56 for the average house in Quesnel or $20.81/$100,000 in assessed value.
“Quesnel is a vibrant and resilient community. As its elected leaders, Council is focused on ensuring the financial sustainability of the City and maintaining its infrastructure in order to ensure that Quesnel will continue to attract and retain residents, businesses and investment through this transition period,” said Mayor Simpson.