This column reports on council meetings from my personal viewpoint and includes comments the reader may not agree with.
In all things there are three sides to a story – my truth, your truth and the real truth.
November 19 Committee of the Whole Meeting
The Mayor and all Councillors were present at this meeting. Staff present were Mr. Campbell, Ms. Coates, Ms. Slater, Mr. Young, Mr. Spears and Mr. Rukus. The video of the meeting has been posted on the DOL website. There were several times during the meeting that participants did not use their microphones and therefore the viewer would have difficulty hearing the discussion. Hopefully participants in the future will remember to speak up!
The meeting started with adoption of the agenda as presented. The purpose of the COTW meeting was to review the 2019-2023 Five Year Financial Plan.
November 7 COTW meeting minutes
Council approved the meeting minutes which was minimal as the purpose of the COTW was to have an in-camera meeting. This is first in-camera meeting for the new council.
a) 2019-2023 Five Year Financial Plan
Director of Financial Services, Jamie Slater, presented the Financial Plan (Plan). The PowerPoint slides have been posted to the DOL website.
Plan highlights included an increase of approximately 3.65% over the prior year’s Plan which represents an increase of approximately $70,600 on a $5.3M expense budget. The impact of the increase would be approximately $40 on the average house price of $630,945. The District is experiencing inflationary pressures from 1. wage and benefit increases of approximately 2% (CUPE), 2. fuel prices, and 3. strong economy. CAO Campbell stated the Medical Services Plan fee that the District is responsible to pay for the coming year was $18,700 representing an increase of 1% to the Plan.
There are three main categories of expenditures: Operating Expenses – annual expenses to maintain operations; Non-Core Expenses – expenses that do not happen annually and are specifically approved by Council; Capital Projects – capital purchases or project costs where the cost is significant and will be amortized over the useful life of the asset.
The Director stated that Non-Market Change in Assessment (year over year change in BC Assessment values) was estimated at $24.3M by BC Assessment which is largely due to Foothills property assessments. This increase will generate approximately $40,000 of extra tax revenue.
The taxes collected for fiscal 2018 were distributed as follows: general municipal 36%, school district 38%, RDN general 13%, RDN hospital 4%, library 4%, policing 4%, BC Assessment Authority 1%.
Councillor Geselbracht questioned the increase to the Sewer User Fee of approximately 19.8% representing an increase from $94.42 to $113.30 on an annual basis. The Director had completed an analysis of applicable costs attributed to the Sewer Fund and discovered that not all applicable costs were being attributed to the Fund. This increase is applicable only to those residents who are currently connected to the sewer line.
Expenses budgeted for next fiscal year were allocated as follows: General Government 22%, Transportation Services 12%, Sewer 9%, Water 9%, Parks & Recreation 8%, Protective Services 7%, Solid Waste Collection 4%, Planning 3%, Mayor and Council 2%, Contract Services 2%.
The Non-Core items include General Government (Costin Hall Maintenance, Strategic Planning, Community Use Buildings Plan, OCP), Fire Services, Planning, Parks & Recreation, Transportation and Sewer totalling $160,500.
The Capital Budget included replacement of the roof for Costin Hall, Fire Hall additional office and new kitchen, a new culvert for Joy Way and a replacement truck for Public Works, upgrades to Copley Park, SCADA upgrade for sewer and water departments, Sebastion Road water main replacement,
Councillors did not have a lot of comments as there will be a further COTW on November 22 to continue debate of the draft Plan. Councillor Savage asked the Director to disclose policing costs in the Plan. He wanted this cost to be disclosed so the residents will be aware of future costs if the District has to pay for its own policing service. The Director indicated that the current funding cost will be included in the future. Mayor Swain moved to recommend to Council that the $10,000 item for the Costin Hall Plan be eliminated. Mayor Swain thought the money would be better spent surveying Lantzville Road to determine where it lies. I found this comment odd as the Road has been there since I was born. After some deliberation, the vote was called and the motion defeated with Councillor Savage voting in favour. The majority of the Councillors believed that the motion would be best dealt with at the November 22nd COTW.
There were a few projects that were started in 2018 and which will be carried forward into 2019: website upgrade $3,000, replacement E-6 fire truck $312,900, Peterson Rd reconstruction and walking path (my favourite) $851,275, Rumming Rd drainage, $175,000, Huddlestone upgrades $44,323, sewer phase 3 $4,701,065.
In Protective Services, $100,000 was budgeted for new office space in the Fire Hall including a new kitchen. Councillors asked staff about the viability of renovating the Fire Hall considering that the building is on leased land. Staff replied that the District would be contacting the Ministry of Transportation to determine if the District would be able to purchase the land. I do hope that will happen as I wonder where the Fire Hall could be moved.
In Parks and Recreation, Councillor Geselbracht asked if the $500,000 budgeted in 2022 and 2023 for the E&N Trail Portion from Ware Road to Phillip Road be removed as this would only be built if a developer put up the funds. It was agreed that this item would be discussed during the Strategic Planning Session to be held in January.
Public Clarification/Input Period
One person made comment
The meeting adjourned at 7:40 PM.
There were 5 public in attendance.