Included amongst the recommendations in the first draft of the budget presented at Monday’s special budget meeting of council was an increase in the mill rate by 2.5% above the anticipated BC Assessment increase.
The goals of the budget, as laid out by staff, were to have “sufficient resourcing of capital budgets to meet the cost of maintaining and replacing core infrastructure, reduction in the use of Peace River Agreement funds for operations purposes, charges for water and sewer sufficient to cover the total operating and replacement costs, taxation at levels sufficient to meet community’s aspirations for services and amenities, and decrease costs for servicing the community’s debts.”
A reduction of $1,351,867 in the operations budget is included.
Among the reduction strategies are reducing park maintenance standards by $400,000, removing funding for the project manager position and half of the building inspector position ($152,642), reducing the library budget by 10% ($59,400), reducing recreation programs with savings of $20,000, reducing promotional items for administration and development services by 50% ($12,500), reducing travel and training by 20% ($110,941), reducing the use consultants by 43% ($326,057), reducing per diem from $125 to $75 ($9,140), and further reducing the administration budget by 7% ($140,000).
As well, they are reducing grants/fees for services by $38,400 — including a reduction of community grant money available from $25,000 to $12,500, eliminating fees for services for the Kiwanis Trade Show ($7,000) and Kiwanis Band ($5,100), and reducing the fee for service for the South Peace Arts Council from $13,800 to $1,500. (Other reductions regarding employees of the City were noted at $82,787, but specifics will not be revealed until the second draft).
Allocation to capital from the Peace River Agreement is set at 37% ($5.43 million).
The water rate for metered sales will increase by 12.5% (from $1.68 to $1.89), the water infrastructure charge will increase by 35%, the current rate for sewer.
The bulk water rate for potable water will increase by 23%, from $2.90 to $3.56, and the bulk water rate for potable water will increase by 23%, from $2.90 to $3.56.
The sewer rate will increase by 12.5%, from $1.01 to $1.13. The sewer infrastructure charge would, however, decrease by 20%, which staff say is to decrease the impact of the water infrastructure charge.
The financial plan also calls for the City to not enter into long term borrowing for 2019.
“The recommendations contained in this budget will result in increases to residents through taxation, water rates and infrastructure charges; and further, will decrease the current service levels provided to the community in the areas identified in the reduction strategies. The proposed actions, combined with the operational reductions will allow the 2019 budget to close with a small surplus in both the operational and capital year end funds,” notes CFO Flavia Rossi Donovan in her report.
Council gave approval to the recommendations.
“This is about building a long term sustainable financial future,” says Mayor Dale Bumstead.
But as council and staff noted, nothing is final. Final numbers still have to come in for BC assessment and share of the Peace RIver Agreement (the final number is not available until February).
“By no means in council committing to anything prior to public consultation or those other budget meetings. As we update numbers, council will have further decisions and discussion,” says CAO Duncan Redfearn.