City budget preparations starting soon

Although it's still months away, Castlegar city council is in good shape in regards to next year's budget.

Although it’s still months away, Castlegar city council is in good shape in regards to next year’s budget.

“The budget has to balance every year,” said councillor Russ Hearne, chair of the Finance and Corporate Services committee. “We’re required by law to balance. I assure you it will balance. We’re early on. We don’t actually have to have our budget in to the province until May. We’re usually very proactive. We have it laid out so by March 1 the budget will have passed all its readings.”

Hearne says the city budget is one of the major topics discussed at the annual council retreat in January.

“What we’ll do is go to the retreat and talk about what we think of the budget and then we’ll submit it to the public and see what they think,” he said. “Last year the public gave us some good ideas that we didn’t think of. So we altered the budget for that.”

Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff says the budget process is one that takes time but is very important.

“We’re getting there,” he said. “It’s a slow process. We have our annual budget meeting Jan. 11 or around there. It’s a matter of rounding it out with staff giving us more information. It’s still in the early stages. We’re looking at what we need to do and what the priorities will be.”

Chernoff says it important to not just look at the near future but also into 2014 and 2015.

“We see infrastructure playing another big role in this year’s budget,” he said. “The development of the airport lands is huge. We’re just building away. The Westjet decision is another thing we are waiting to hear from. We should hear in January. That should help things. That’ll be a huge economic benefit to the Kootenays. I’m not going to say ‘if’, I’m going to say ‘when’.”

The mayor is upbeat about the City’s fiscal health.

“We’re on target for last year’s budget,” he said. “We got a little wonky on the snow but I think that’s still on line because the months before that we didn’t have much snow. But I think generally the budget is shaping up well. We’re looking for another good year in 2013 and 2014.”