Rosslanders had their first official opportunity to provide feedback on the city’s budget on Wednesday.
Steve Ash, consulting manager of finance for the City of Rossland, presented the 2016-2020 budget to the public and did his best to address their questions, with help from Mayor Kathy Moore and Councillor Lloyd McLellan, who is the city’s representative to the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. Other councillors were also present and helped address the public’s concerns.
The presentation offered residents a lot to think about, but the big take away is this: The cost of financing capital — which includes $7 million for the Washington St. upgrade and $1.4 million for the Rossland contribution to the Trail pipe bridge —combined with inflation could increase taxes by nearly 10 per cent in 2017. Tax increases would also be above inflation from 2018 to 2020, and increases would be cumulative. These increases are independent of the increases to water and sewer rates, or the taxes charged by other bodies, such as the regional district and school district. (Unfortunately since the city doesn’t know how much other bodies will raise their taxes, Ash wasn’t able to provide the blended tax rate, which is what home owners actually pay.) So Rosslanders are stuck with some tough choices. Should the city increase revenues, cut services, or some combination of both?
Increasing revenues doesn’t necessarily come down to increasing taxes; there may be other ways to increase city revenues and city council is hoping Rosslanders will have some creative ideas. One resident felt the best way to raise revenues was to attract more residents.
“It seems like just a lot of firefighting to keep things working, keep the doors open, when effort could be made into really increasing the population. That’s what every community needs to remain sustainable is a growing population and I haven’t seen that in Rossland,” said a resident.
As for cutting services, council wants to hear input from Rosslanders on what can be cut, but as was demonstrated at Wednesday night’s meeting, everyone will most likely have a different opinion on what the city can live without.
“I think recreation and healthy living is the number one reason why people live here. I think we could forgo additional snow removal, spring clean up, even curbside recycling. Like we can all work as neighbourhoods kind of thing and pick up some slack, if you want to call it that,” said one man.
But his argument was almost immediately countered by someones else: “My concern is that the spring clean up goes away and I’m already watching it now in my neighbourhood as people are taking their yard waste and hauling it into the bush at trail heads and so on and so forth. It just causes a lot of dumping in the city, so I think the spring clean up is a vital service and in the long run it serves us better to have it.” The same resident made the argument that there should be a standard approach to evaluating the social benefit of recreation groups.
When it came to recreation, residents were curious to know the number of users who use each recreation facility, information the city is working to gather. The question was also raised as to whether or not the $50,000 set aside by council for Trail Recreation Program (TRP) fees is worth it if Rossland may have to cut some of its own recreation programming to cover the extra cost.
“If now we’re looking at reducing the time for our own pool or closing our own pool, I think it would be more prudent to allow the community to use [our] pool,” said one resident.
The City of Rossland will continue to solicit feedback from the public, but if you’d like to contact city council regarding the budget they can be reached by email using the form at rossland.ca/node/98?cid=8#form.