Draft budget presented to Rossland city council

The City of Rossland's draft budget for 2016 to 2020 was presented to council on Monday afternoon.

The City of Rossland has a draft budget for 2016 to 2020.

The draft was presented at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday afternoon and revealed that if council doesn’t find a way to cut costs, taxes will increase by over 10 per cent in 2017.

According to Steve Ash, interim manager of finance, high taxes in Rossland are being driven by recreation spending, the operation of several older buildings, spending on social programs, a disproportionate allocation of regional services and the high costs of providing basic services in a mountain community with high snow fall.

While 2017 represents the biggest tax increase, failing to cut costs would lead to considerable tax increases from 2018 to 2020 as well: seven per cent in 2018, four per cent in 2019 and five per cent in 2020. That would be on top of the 3.5 per cent increase in 2016.

In the interest of keeping costs under control, council asked Ash and staff to suggest options for cutting costs by $250,000 in 2017. The draft presented three possible options for cutting costs. The first focuses on cutting recreation and would include closing the arena. The second option focuses on cutting regional services and would involve renegotiating Rossland’s tax allocation to the district. Rossland could also withdraw from certain regional services, like the cultural allocation and economic development. The third option takes a more varied approach, and could include reducing arena hours, renegotiating some regional services and increasing revenues without increasing property taxes.

None of the options include a provision for increasing bylaw enforcement.

Ash’s recommendation is to take an approach similar to option three, cutting $220,000 in 2017 by reducing arena hours, reducing recreation programs, cutting $30,000 through continuous improvement of city services, re-negotiating regional services, reducing the TRP amount from $50,000 to $30,000, opting out of regional economic development and reducing community grants.

Reducing costs by $250,000 in 2017 and $150,000 in 2018 could allow the city to keep tax increases down over the next four years, to five per cent in 2017, four per cent in 2018, two per cent in 2019 and four per cent in 2020.

Ash would like to emphasize that nothing in the draft budget is final and no decisions have been made. The public is invited to attend a public budget consultation at the Prestige Mountain Resort on April 13 at 7 p.m. where Rosslanders can share their priorities for the next five years with mayor and council.

The final budget needs to be filed by May 16.