Charter issues

One of the things council has to do as part of its budget process is pass a five year financial plan for the municipality.

One of the things council has to do as part of its budget process is pass a five year financial plan for the municipality.

It’s an utterly pointless exercise forced on them by the provincial government.

I say pointless because it is near impossible for council and administration to predict what is going to be happening four or five years down the road.

For example, the five year plan passed three years ago did not take into account the impact of the Eurocan closure – how could it? Pointless too because I very much doubt the province pores over these plans to ensure they pass muster or checks each year to see if what council is doing matches the old plan.

But the Community Charter also requires the municipality to approve each year an Objectives and Policies document as part of that Financial Plan.

That begins with a section on Overall Municipal Objectives which are generally motherhood statements such as “facilitate the highest quality of community life for citizens of all ages” and “provide the highest quality municipal services at the lowest possible cost”.

Policies for Tax Apportionment says major industry will foot 60-80 per cent of the bill (74.85 per cent this year), residential 12-25 per cent (16.01 per cent), light industry 3-7 per cent (4.93 per cent) and business/commercial 3-7 per cent (3.95 per cent).

Next comes Objectives of Permissive Tax Exemptions beginning with those under section 224 of the Community Charter.

The financial plan says the city will consider such exemptions “to encourage activities consistent with the quality of life objectives of the municipality; which provide direct access and benefit to the public; and which would otherwise be provided by the municipality.”

And finally there are the exemptions under section 226 of the Charter – which the city rejects.

“The District has carefully analyzed the arguments that such exemptions influence investment decisions and affect the ability of industry to compete andfound these are not borne out by the evidence. Therefore council sees section 226 exemptions create known serious taxation and revenue problems without commensurate   public benefit and are not part of the financial tools of the municipality at this time.”

That’s a shame, and I’ll get into why next week.