Mayor Larry O’Brien’s tax-freeze promise passed a test yesterday when a city committee endorsed a proposal to move forward with a zero-per-cent hike for the 2008 budget.
The tax-freeze draft budget is one of three scenarios staff will look at. The other two include a 1.4 per cent increase and a 4.4 per cent. Added to each draft is an expected increase of the Police Services budget of 1.6 per cent.
O’Brien said he had no control over Police Services and would concentrate his zero-means-zero efforts on the city’s budget. He did concede, however, that there were obstacles in his way, including the possibility of having to come up with money for infrastructure that was becoming old and dangerous.
“My target is still zero and I’ll be working towards that,” he explained.
The zero-per-cent budget was on the chopping block when Coun. Marianne Wilkinson proposed that staff only prepare a rate-of-inflation budget and forego the other two. She argued that it would be more transparent for residents to have just one budget.
“The choices we have to make have to be clear to the public,” she argued.
Coun. Alex Cullen said the majority of council would not vote for a tax-freeze budget but agreed staff should prepare the scenario to allow taxpayers to have more information. The committee rejected a proposal from Coun. Peter Hume to create a capital tax levy that would have cost taxpayers $50 per year for four years. The committee will meet again on Monday.