City council has resumed meetings open to the public at Quesnel City Hall. (Photo courtesy of City of Quesnel)

City council has resumed meetings open to the public at Quesnel City Hall. (Photo courtesy of City of Quesnel)

Quesnel city council decides to re-invest budget surpluses to fight inflation, fuel cost increases

In a 5-2 vote, councillors approved moving over $200K in savings back into the operating budget

Quesnel city council got a slight boost for their 2022 budget, with city staff finding three areas which could be reduced, leaving councillors with a decision to make.

At a city council meeting on Tuesday, March 15, councillors were presented with two options for the money. Keep the $221,336 in savings in the operating budget to fight inflation and gas price increases, or reduce taxes for 2022 by 1.28 per cent.

Council decided against reducing taxes, instead approving keeping the savings as a buffer for future years, with councillors Ron Paull and Martin Runge voting against the motion.

Staff found the transit budget was consistently at a surplus, landfill fees have risen higher than expected and the city’s contribution to snow removal reserves could be reduced by $50,000.

Earlier this year, city council approved a tax increase of 6.9 per cent for the 2022 operating budget.

READ MORE: 6.9 per cent tax increase approved for Quesnel operating budget, mill rate drops below 4

Kari Bolton, the city’s director of corporate and financial services, said the savings to the average home would be around $13 if the money was removed from the budget completely.

The motion to put the money back into the budget was made by Scott Elliott, and passed 5-2.

After making the motion, Elliott noted the reason for a nearly seven per cent tax increase in 2022 was because council used COVID-19 savings to reduce the tax burden last year, forcing them to play catch up.

“I understand the desire to lower (the tax) number to 5.7 per cent, but in effect what’s happening is potentially $221,000 is coming back to bite us next year,” he said.

“We’re lining up the next council to have to deal with that before we deal with regular inflation or regular costing.”

Councillor Runge voiced support for using only half the savings to increase the operating budget, but found himself in the minority when voting.

The city’s transit fund has been consistently operating at a surplus for the past few years, including $90,000 in 2021. Bolton’s report noted that normally the transit surplus has been used to fund equipment reserves, but instead taxation should be reduced by $50,000.

Landfill fees have also grown, with solid waste posting a surplus of $157,000. A future landfill fees estimate in line with the past few years means no tax money is needed to fund solid waste.

In the past decade of snow removal, only two of years have been 30 per cent over budget, with the majority of years under 20 per cent over budget. The snow reserve will now be set at 30 per cent of the overall snow budget.

Council also reduced their travel budget by $5,500.

Earlier in the meeting councillors heard more good financial news. A new estimate for council’s portion of RCMP retroactive wages from 2017-2021 was significantly lower.

“The total estimated accrual for retro wages is $834,040, and we expect the actual payment to occur in 2022,” a report written Bolton reads.

Bolton added the city is ready to pay their amount whenever they receive the actual bill.

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