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Budget adopted in 5-2 vote

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The 2008 Five Year Financial Plan was adopted by council Monday, but not without some further dissent from two councillors.

Councillor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden prefaced her remarks by saying, “I think we can do more with this budget. We should only adopt a budget if we’re sure it’s the best it can be. I think we can do better.”

The budget includes a 5.5 per cent increase in residential property taxes but Wilhelm-Morden was more concerned about some of the spending.

“The report indicated we’re cutting capital spending but we’re not,” she said. “We’re reducing contributions to capital savings.”

She pointed out that the 2008 budget has the largest general capital spending in years — $29 million. In addition, there are huge capital projects being funded from the water and sewer capital funds. Wilhelm-Morden also said that the $29 million figure is $1 million higher than was presented to the public at a workshop in January.

She also had took issue with how Olympic spending was being accounted for in the budget.

“No where in the report is the word ‘Olympics’,” Wilhelm-Morden said.

“We have $1.3 million for operating expenditures for the Olympics. I don’t know what that’s for, although I assume there are at least two salaries in there.

“I’m sure the money’s well spent, but we need some transparency.”

Olympic-related spending may be coming out of the 2 per cent hotel tax, and not directly out of municipal taxpayers’ pockets, Wilhelm-Morden said, but those are still revenues that belong to the community.

Mayor Ken Melamed responded that he appreciated the comments but the issues haven’t changed since December and most of Wilhelm-Morden’s questions have been raised previously.

“We’ve been through all this. I think we’ve done our due dilegence,” Melamed said. “Staff have done back flips (to get the municipality to this point). I think we should go ahead and pass this budget.”

Melamed also pointed to Lakeside Park and the municipal hall expansion as two capital projects that were cut.

Wilhelm-Morden responded that Lakeside Park and the municipal hall expansion projects were cut last year.

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler said there are some big projects that make up the $29 million capital plan, but important discussions on some of those projects will take place in the next few months and they may not all go ahead, particularly as this is an election year.

Councillor Tim Wake supported Melamed’s and Zeidler’s comments, saying capital spending can be reviewed as projects come up, but it’s time to move forward with the budget.

“We’ve already gone over what Councillor Wilhelm-Morden has suggested, several times,” Wake said.

The budget was adopted in a 5-2 vote, with Wilhelm-Morden and Ralph Forsyth opposed.

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