The District of Squamish staff has been tasked with bringing forward a proposed municipal budget that won't hit residents with a tax increase.
With labour contract obligations and debt servicing obligations, DOS staff members made it clear at a budget workshop this week that delivering a zero-tax increase budget won't be easy.
Squamish mayor Rob Kirkham said the budget process started earlier than usual this year and the public engagement program was designed to make it easier for residents to be part of the process.
"Hopefully that perks some interest and gets some people involved," said Kirkham in advance of the first budget workshop on Tuesday, Nov. 19.
Kirkham said efforts to start the budget process earlier in previous years haven't materialized and with the four-hour budget workshop on Tuesday, the creation of the community's next budget is underway earlier compared to previous years. Residents of Squamish can follow the progress by watching live broadcasts of each budget meeting or view the recorded meetings later through the district's website. All budget-related documents are being posted on the website and Kirkham is encouraging residents to share their thoughts on the crafting of the budget via a special budget feedback email address, through Facebook, Twitter, traditional mail or in person with the members of council.
"We're going to put the budget, as presented, and the whole presentation from staff and discussion, out there for the community for a three-week period before council has their second go around with it on Dec. 10," said Kirkham. "We'll be looking for the community to be participating and giving feedback."
In the first workshop, council members learned from CAO Corien Speaker that labour contract obligations and a "modest" level of special projects, along with contributions to capital and reserve funds, would result in a $1,328,513 or 6.2 per cent increase over the 2013 general property tax revenue.
What that means is service cuts will be inevitable if the 2014 budget is, in fact, going to be a zero-tax increase budget.
"As an organization, however, we strongly believe that some options identified as possible service reductions are not in the best interests of the community or the organization," said Speaker.
She went on to say that the DOS general managers believe a 7.7 per cent budget increase over 2013 is recommended.
"I'm not predicting it will necessarily be a zero (tax increase) but that's where we're starting from and it could well be where we end up or it could be adjusted higher," said Kirkham.
Full budget details are available at www.squamish.ca.