Trent Ernst, Editor
The District is working their way through the 2014–2018 Financial Plan and 2014 budget with an eye towards having it approved at the May 14 council meeting.
“In light of the news we’ve had,” says Mayor Wren, “we should look at this as a one-year budget. Look at the special projects. Ask what we can do without. If we hear that things are changing, then we can look at doing these projects later. We should approach the budget with an eye towards funding what is absolutely necessary this year.”
This year, the District is looking at having total revenues of just under $14.8 million, the lion’s share of that coming from industrial taxes. Of that, nearly $8 million dollars goes towards the “Core” or operating budget, which covers the day-to-day running of the District, from wages for employees to fuel for the District’s fleet of vehicles to salt for the water treatment plant.
By the end of the initial meeting, council had deferred about $2.8-million of potential spending and cut nearly $800,000 completely from the budget.
Things that fell before council’s axe included $20,000 earmarked for the ski hill task force. Mayor Wren says he’s been working with a company on this, investigating possible sites already and they have not found an appropriate site, so he is reluctantly willing to take that item—a personal project for the mayor—off the table.
Also gone out of this year’s budget (though still in the five year budget) is $350,000 in cash earmarked for land purchases. And the much anticipated Water Park and Plaza that has been delayed for the last couple of years is being pushed back again, this time until 2017, though council says if economic conditions improve in the next couple of years, they might start working on it earlier. That saves $100,000 in this year’s budget, which would have gone towards site inspection and planning.
A proposed parade float for the District, which could be used at parades throughout the Peace Region, where, as Councillor Snyder points out, Tumbler Ridge has little or no presence at currently, was also deferred, this one only until 2016, saving the council $44,000.
The deepest cuts came to the protective services department, which saw a proposed $1 million Emergency Equipment Building (which was expected to be built last year, but was delayed due to the quote being far higher than originally expected) deferred for at least another year.
As the Equipment building is being put on hold, the $1.1 million earmarked for a replacement ladder truck was also put on hold as the current space in the fire hall is not large enough to hold most modern ladder trucks. (A new truck could be custom built to fit the space, at a much higher cost to the District.)
However, the $47,000 to replace the soon-to-be-condemned stairs in the hose tower is still on the books, as are about $20,000 in gear upgrades and replacements.
While the Emergency Equipment building was held back, the new Visitor Information Centre building was not. At $1.5 million, it’s the biggest ticket item on this year’s project list. While Council has no control over the price of coal, says Councillor Caisley, they do have control over how the town looks, over how inviting a place it is. Along with the Visitor Centre, the town is also going ahead with a number of rejuvenation projects, including $16,500 for downtown sidewalk repair.
At their second budgeting meeting, council discussed tax rates and decided to not raise taxes at all for residents and small business owners.
They are also considering making a one-time change to the tax penalties. Historically, if a resident was late with their taxes, they would pay a ten percent penalty. This year, the penalty would be five percent as of July 2 and the remaining five percent would only be applied if the resident were not able to pay until after October 31.
None of this is written in stone, of course. Council has until May 15 to approve the final budget and some of these items could come back, while others could go between now and then.