This year’s preliminary budget talks got underway last Sunday and Mayor Wren was very happy with the work Chief Financial Officer Candie Laporte did to make this year’s budget package easier to navigate.
Last year the capital budget started out at $4,674,200 and the actual 2012 budget turned out to be $2,295,463. This year, the outlined budget is $6,666,427 with monies coming from reserves, 2012 surplus ($1,455,500), debt, the general fund ($3,170,008) and Fair Share funding ($1,455,500).
The proposed Water Fund Capital Budget will be $430,157 and the proposed Sewer Fund Capital Budget will be $84,500.
The first section on the table was the general government. The biggest area where money is being allocated is sustainability planning, an endeavour being spear-headed by Councillor Caisley. The sustainability plan is being allocated $117,000 for this year’s budget with $27,000 of this coming from CDI. Other monies are being spent on infrastructure improvements including $26,500 for renovations to the municipal hall, $30,000 for computer software, $45,000 for municipal hall ceiling tiles and another $30,000 for municipal hall lighting. The total general government budget for 2013 is $335,350 with $60,000 coming from surplus.
In the protective services section, Fire Chief Matt Treit was on hand to answer all of council’s questions, and for this section, there were many.
The big ticket item for this year is a new emergency equipment building – Council has approved – which will cost about $605,000. This building is necessary, among other reasons, because of the new ladder truck which is being proposed. The current building would not be able to house a new ladder truck as the one in operation is of rare dimensions and the building was built to suit this truck.
The emergency equipment building will also be available to house other emergency vehicles, other than the fire trucks. The building will be tentatively built across the way from the fire hall.
Fire Chief Matt Trait says, “The servicing for a building close to the fire hall is much more readily available and will cost less, but the building would have to be of a higher grade than it would be if we had it out, for example, by the public works building.”
We are still leasing space to house emergency equipment at about $30,000 a year but we are also leasing space to BC ambulance at a lower cost. Councillor Snyder asked very simply, “Why are we doing that? I didn’t realize we were spending so much on out space.”
The budget for 2013 includes $130,000 to go into the equipment reserves for a new ladder truck, which will cost about one million dollars over a ten year lease through the Municipal Financial Authority (MFA). At the end of the lease the town would own the truck.
The main reason why a new truck is needed is because of insurance. When an emergency vehicle reaches 30 years of life, the insurance companies no longer include it, and this would cause an abundant increase in insurance payments for the district.
Treit says, “The current truck is 26-years-old. We had a survey done in 2011 and they made a number of recommendations. One of which was to replace apparatus over 20-years-old. For insurance purposes, it reduces its value over time. After 20 years we are looked at as an insurance risk. They reduce in value by 10 percent a year as far as fire insurance grading goes. Its value this year will be down 60 percent.”
The verdict is still out on how council is going to setup a fund for the new ladder truck. The trucks take about two years to make.
The next major area of discussion is Community Development. The only thing on the docket is improved signage for the town. There is currently $113,000 allocated for this, $49,000 coming from surplus.
Councillor McPherson says in regards to the signs on the highways, “Are we changing those? Dinosaurs seem to be getting old here.”
Mayor Wren replied, “Some of the signage will also be in the town, giving people more direction. It will be a package of signage.”
McPherson answers, “I just think we have more to offer than what we show on our signs, even the wind towers are a reason to come out here. All of that should be incorporated in the sign.”
This matter will be brought forward again after Councillor McPherson has a chance to review the signage proposal.
The biggest section for the capital budget for 2013 is the recreational services area. The proposed budget has allocated $1,500,200 with $282,200 coming from surplus.
One of the big ticket items here are restaurant renovations in the community centre. The budget proposes $264,000. Much discussion was had about this. A few comments from council include:
Councillor McPherson brought up that other restaurants in town could become upset about the district renovating a space for a restaurant.
Councillor Caisley said, “I have no problem with having a restaurant at the community centre. I see it as getting the process started. I think it is something we should proceed and even treat as a priority.”
The council was debating over whether it should be their responsibility or the responsibility of the business coming in to operate the restaurant to buy the equipment.
Mayor Wren said, “We should immediately put out an RFP [request for proposal] and the details of equipment will be dealt with then.” Other areas of recreational services specifically at the community centre included in the budget are improvements to the pool area and dressing rooms, new hockey matting and other infrastructure improvements.
One item on the table, which parents may really appreciate, is the potential to make sure certain areas of the community centre receive cell phone service, something that isn’t possible at the moment.
One major discussion, which was had during the budget talks, was around feasibility studies and whether they are beneficial to actually getting the job done.
Mayor Wren started the talk by saying, “I can provide some input from the family needs meeting recently. All of these feasibility studies that we are doing, quite frankly I think we are spending a lot of money on them. For example, Councillor Hewitt did some work on the bowling alley from her desk and was able to contact a company that does bowling alleys and is doing some work in the Peace area. They are able to help us for much much less than the quote came in from Stantec. Stantec, essentially what I can see, is simply gathering that information and supplying it to us. So, by the course of someone making a few phone calls, it would appear that a significant amount of money can be saved. I think these feasibility studies need to be looked at. I am not in favour of having this money going forward for the bowling alley specifically.”
There was $35,000 allocated for a bowling alley feasibility study which as of now has been stricken from the budget. The visitor centre feasibility study was also removed from the budget, as council feels we have the resources available to make it happen.
What wasn’t stricken from the budget and which seems to be gaining momentum are improvements to the golf course.
The proposed budget includes about $76,500 for improvements to the golf course. These improvements potentially include new carts and batteries, paving of the cart tracks, fencing to keep out atvs and snowmobiles, a new curtain for the driving range, a new cart storage area and potentially a new RV Park for the golf course.
See part 2 of budget talks in our next issue.