Scope of operating projects reduced to help balance budget

Transferring the stabilization funds is in addition to using 2.7 per cent of Fair Share funds and a six per cent increase in tax revenue to cover the $74.3 million in proposed expenses. In comparison, 3.2 per cent Fair Share was used in 2013, with a 4.4 per cent increase in tax revenue. 

What that will mean for individuals property owners won’t be known until early next year, after property assessments are sent out and the tax rates are set. 

This year’s budget is similar to last year’s, with $73.7 million in revenues anticipated to mostly cover the proposed expenditures, which include $1.135 million in operating projects. The biggest increases come from the hiring of an economic development officer, as well a government administration. 

An extra $420,000 is slated for protective services next year, largely due to a 49.2 per cent increase in bylaw enforcement costs, along with running two fire halls until something is done with the old one and increased costs for fire department response to calls on the highway. 

“We’re estimating what the operating costs for the new fire hall will be,” adds Director of Finance Mike Roy. “We have no actuals so we’re being conservative on that front. It could be high, it could be low; we don’t know, but part of that increase in there is reflecting the larger facility that they’ll be in.” 

Notably, the City plans to spend 1.04 per cent more on recreation and culture next year, including more than $350,000 extra on parks and playgrounds. At the same time, a 10.6 per cent increase in transportation spending is expected, despite a $173,500 decrease in transit costs, thanks to an additional $288,000 on roads and $236,000 on engineering. 

In his presentation to City Council, Roy gave other options for increasing revenue, including further increasing user fees and charges. To decrease expenditures, the City could reduce service levels, spend less on travel and professional development, and trim grants-in-aid and permissive tax exemptions for local churches and non-profit groups. 

Among the proposed operating projects, which were cut down from the previous meeting, is $250,000 each for discussions on Fair Share renewal and further dealings with the proposed Site C dam, which would be covered by B.C. Hydro.  There’s also $50,000 for a Facilities Master Plan, and another $125,000 for the Downtown Action Plan, and the Master Transportation Plan that was postponed last year has reappeared at a cost of $150,000 in 2014 and $70,000 in 2015. 

City Manager Dianne Hunter also noted that the $150,000 allotted for boundary extension is not just for its current proposed application, but as the City continues to receive applications for inclusion, it could consider others in the near future. 

“We anticipate while we’re dealing with the current boundary extension, you’ll probably want to make some moves going forward on an additional boundary extension, so that dollar amount may represent one or two or three different initiatives.” 

A public meeting on the operating budget will be held on November 18 at 5 p.m. at City Hall. The operating budget is expected to be finalized on November 25, with adoption on January 13, 2014.

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About Erica Fisher 4010 Articles

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.