Trent Ernst, Editor
We’re one week closer to when the budget has to be passed, which means we’re one week closer to the budget being passed.
A lot of people are expecting Council to be passing an extremely conservative budget. These people will be disappointed. Expenses haven’t been slashed; taxes probably won’t be reduced much if at all. While Council is aware that both mines are closed, the fact is, they have not shut down, and are still paying taxes at the same rate they were when the mines were going full bore.
However, those thinking the District is flush with cash and can afford to buy a lot of splashy new things will also be disappointed.
Yes, it’s true. The District has about $6.7 million in the bank, which they invest in something really cool. But all that money is currently earmarked for other things. Important things. Boring things.
Remember how your mom told you to eat your vegetables, and how fibre was good for you? Well, it’s a bit like that.
In fact, the two are intimately related.
Fibre is good for you, because it increases motility. That means you poo regularly.
And after you poo, you flush the toilet.
And that’s where a lot of that money is earmarked for.
You see, every year that passes means that the infrastructure in Tumbler Ridge is another year older. It has another year’s worth of use. And, while it has lasted us a goodly long time, it’s starting to wear out and will have to be replaced.
The trouble is, you can’t just toss out the old sewer system and buy a new one. The old one is buried under the streets. Yes, those very streets that you’ve been complaining need to be paved.
In order to replace that old sewer system, those old water lines, they’ll have to dig up the streets to install the new pipes. And you thought the streets needed paving now! Just you wait until that happens.
You see the roads, which have a few potholes in them, and you say the town needs to repave. But if the water pipes, if the sewer lines need to be replaced in the next decade, it would be fiscally irresponsible for the District to pave the roads now, as they’ll just have to repave them after they dig them up to replace the water and sewer lines.
And if the District does decide to replace the water and sewer lines, they’re going to have to repave the roads.
That means that anything they do is going to cost a lot of money.
The District could borrow a bunch of money to pay for the repairs, but then they’d be spending a bunch of money on interest. So rather than lose money by borrowing it, they’ve been slowing socking away a few pennies here, a couple hundred thousand dollars there, knowing that in four years, or five, or ten, there’s going to be a whole lot of work needed on the infrastructure. In fact, the town’s infrastructure has lost about $30-million dollars. When you put it like that, the fact that they’ve managed to save about $6.7 million seems…paltry.
But here’s the thing. It isn’t either or, all or nothing. Instead of buying a brand new sewer system, the District can work at maintaining what they have. Oiling the bits that need oiling. Patching the bits that need patching, and extending the life of the infrastructure.
So if you’re not seeing a lot of shiny new stuff this year, it’s because a lot of the focus this year will be on maintaining and upgrading infrastructure. On spending the time and money needed to keep things running the way they’re supposed to.