Council passed the first reading of the Town of Golden 2011-2015 Five-Year Financial Plan Bylaw at last Tuesday’s council meeting. The Town is now working hard to relay the bylaw information to the public for feedback before proceeding to two more public readings and final adoption, which could happen as early as March.
The reason for this bylaw is because the Community Charter requires that a municipality must have a five-year financial plan that is adopted annually. The Financial Plan contains both operating and capital expenditures, including the proposed sources of funds and their application for capital projects such as road, water and sewer improvements, building construction or land and equipment purchases. The plan also represents the Corporate Work Plan, which is directed by the Town’s Strategic Plan.
The Financial Plan includes a proposed general tax of 3.4 per cent increase for 2011.
“This is the first increase we’ve had in three years,” said David Allen, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Town of Golden at the meeting. “It’s the most reasonable increase we can do.”
According to the 2001 Financial Plan public consultation info package, a municipal government cannot spend more than it raises in a year. This zero tax increase approach Golden has experienced in the past few years cannot be sustained for long, as annual inflation reduces municipal buying power. Either revenue must be increased or service levels decreased.
“The new budget reflects council’s strategic priorities,” said Mayor Benty after the meeting. “It is what we believe we can accomplish this year. Our priorities focused on balancing environmental, economic and social/cultural responsibility. We started with a 5 per cent increase and whittled it down. The 3.4 per cent is defensible in that we have not had an increase in the last two budgets.”
Something new in the budget this year, explained Mayor Benty, is the one half percent that is going toward our depreciating capital assets. It is a minimal amount, she said, but a start in the right direction.
So what does this tax increase mean?
If a house is valued at $300,000, the owner will pay $1,373 in municipal tax, which is about $56 more than the last two years. If a business property is valued at $500,000 the owner will pay $6,222, which is about $185 more than the last two years.
Residential property tax accounts for 46.49 per cent of 2011 taxation and gives the Town a total of $1,870,466. Business property tax accounts for 42.58 per cent, with a total of $1,713,061 going to the Town.
Property taxes as a whole represent almost 42 per cent of the total Town revenue for 2011 while government grants make up just over 34 per cent. The total from all funding sources for 2011 is projected to be just under $10 million.
In August of 2010 Town Council met with a professional facilitator to develop a set of priorities for categorizing 2011 Town Operations. The results were presented to the public at Tuesday’s council meeting.
The first four are council priorities, which includes “back to basics” (which means finishing projects and bylaws that are already started), maintaining Golden’s Cultural Vibrancy, enhancing recreation for residents and tourists and protecting the community’s assets.
The last four are corporate priorities and are assigned to the many other things the Town does (like administration, financial planning and bylaw enforcement). These priorities include statutory absolute (things the Town must do on a fixed schedule), statutory flexible ( not a fixed schedule), existing projects and programs and something the Town is calling “zingers”, which are unplanned or surprise requirements.
Council also identified a long list of goals they would like to achieve in 2011. The Community Broadband Network, Civic Centre Redevelopment, and Council Remuneration Bylaw were ranked as the top three goals. Lower on the list included things like the Business License Bylaw and Housing.
Allen noted that upcoming projects like the green gyms and bike share program, would not be possible without money from the Resort Municipality Initiative (RMI). The program gives the Town a percentage of local hotel room tax, resulting in about half a million dollars every year to help with new and existing municipal projects.
Council is now inviting the public to comment on the bylaw before it is eventually adopted. Copies of this consultation and information packages are available in hardcopy at Town Hall and the public library or online at www.golden.ca or the Town of Golden facebook page.