Powell River council receives proposal for community advisory finance committee

Staff will help draft terms of reference for committee

Mayor Dave Formosa wants to establish a community advisory finance committee to help provide input into City of Powell River’s finance and budgetary process.

The mayor introduced the concept of a community committee at the Thursday, July 25, finance committee meeting.

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Formosa said he thinks one of the features the committee will take a look at is what taxpayers are willing to pay going forward.

“As you all know, we [council] are the ones who decide what they will pay,” said Formosa. “We listen to our taxpayers but we have a lot of struggles.”

He is hoping a community advisory finance committee can help councillors with the complexities of determining taxation.

Regarding development in the community, the mayor said he does not think the market in Powell River is going to slow down, regardless of what is happening in the Lower Mainland.

In terms of returns to the city in taxation, Formosa said most of the new construction is in housing, rather than commercial or industrial projects. He said the return in taxes on a commercial new building is nearly four times that of residential, and for industrial, it is 10 times.

Formosa said there are questions, such as what services the taxpayers are willing to pay for because there are not enough new revenues from the new buildings being constructed to keep up with cost increases. He said the city had $130,000 in new revenues last year from new buildings being constructed. That does not cover the last contract increase for city workers, he added.

The mayor said he is allowed to create both standing and select committees. He said he is thinking a select committee is the way to proceed because a standing committee would mean having as many councillors as members of the public, which would burden councillors. If all seven council members participated, that would mean seven members of the public could participate.

Formosa, however, thinks 20 or 30 people are needed to fulfill the mandate of the committee.

“We want to bring in all of the sectors,” said Formosa. “We want people from business, from accounting, from arts and crafts, from recreation, from those interested in climate change. We want, hopefully, two representatives of each at the table to go through the process as if they were just elected to council.”

Committee members would receive an overview of the city’s finances, according to Formosa’s plan.

“We are going to bring regular individuals into our world to see what we’re seeing, to struggle with what we are struggling with, and to give us what they would do if they were in our position,” said Formosa.

If all of council wants to be involved, that’s great, said Formosa, because council members can attend any meeting they want. He said that on the committee, from council, he should be a member, as should George Doubt, chair of the finance committee, and Rob Southcott, who has also held the finance committee portfolio.

Doubt said the committee would provide wider public consultation to determine the public interest.

“Getting more public involvement is a good idea,” said Doubt. “I’m looking forward to the process.”

City chief administrative officer Russell Brewer said the finance committee could consider giving direction to staff to work with Doubt and the mayor to draft terms of reference for the committee to consider.

Councillor Cindy Elliott said she was supportive of the select committee and added that with respect to the size of the committee, the larger the group, the more structure would be required up front. She said she wants to participate.

Councillor Jim Palm said he likes the idea of the committee, having a diverse sector of the local community represented. He said he’d like to volunteer as an alternate on the committee and plans on being in the gallery at all of the meetings.

“It’s long overdue,” said Palm. “It will be a very valuable exercise.”

Southcott said he also likes the idea and would be sitting in the gallery if he wasn’t appointed to the select committee.

Councillor Maggie Hathaway said direction should be given to staff to establish terms of reference for the select committee, for which the finance committee gave unanimous consent.

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