By Lyonel Doherty
Oliver Town council is still trying to lasso a fair but forward-thinking budget after a four-hour marathon meeting on Wednesday.
Council is meeting again today in hopes to give staff some direction, which could result in a zero per cent tax increase up to a 10 per cent increase to help cover future policing costs.
In the chief financial officer’s report, Devon Wannop highlighted many things that are impacting the $3.8 million budget, which is funded by $1.4 million in property taxes. For example, there is a small increase in administration ($1,302), a request for $14,839 for line-painting/crack-sealing at the airport, and a $4,193 (five per cent) increase in bylaw enforcement.
Wannop noted that the development services budget has increased by $19,515 (12 per cent) due to an increase in wages and the use of a relief building inspector. He also noted the Town’s portion for the aquatic centre feasibility study is $30,000.
Wannop said the 2018 municipal election will cost approximately $30,000, and the fire department wants to paint its building for $10,000.
Town parks has seen an increase of $5,700 (four per cent) due to union labour costs and a $2,600 increase for pole banner arms.
Wannop stated that the Public Works budget has increased by $12,138 (or eight per cent).
He also pointed out that road and drainage expenses have decreased $21,000, but operating costs for solid waste have gone up $69,000 (25 per cent) due to a new automated cart agreement. However, he noted this will not result in an increase for ratepayers.
Overall staff costs have increased by $40,382 (for paying out the previous chief financial officer and hiring a new one).
Starting an RCMP reserve fund has not been factored into the current budget. But Wannop said if the Town started one in 2018, the cost per year would be approximately $84,000, which would represent a 5.9 per cent tax increase.
He pointed out that a one per cent increase in property taxes equates to a revenue increase of $14,285.
Council is looking at numerous capital projects in the 2018 budget, including $36,000 for a CPR Station sprinkler system, $20,000 for phone system replacement, $30,000 for a new pickup truck, $200,000 for Spartan Street sidewalk (from Rockcliffe Road to School Avenue), and $620,000 for Station Street upgrades.
Another project being considered is completing a traffic calming study for $7,000. Director of Operations Shawn Goodsell said one motorist was recorded travelling 140 km per hour on Tucelnuit Drive last year.
A trails and parks master plan will cost $30,000 if the Town approves that “strategic plan” project.
Council is also considering a columbarium area in the southwest corner of the cemetery for $40,000.
During deliberations, Councillor Dave Mattes suggested increasing taxation by nine per cent to cover future policing costs and use this money for sidewalk upgrading over five years.
Wannop said a 10 per cent increase in tax revenues would be the minimum he would recommend.
Under one scenario he presented, not using non market change, the average Oliver residence would see a total tax increase of $154, a 6.1 per cent increase over last year.
Under another scenario, using non-market change, the increase would be approximately $74 (a 3 per cent increase).
After four hours, Mattes encouraged his colleagues to “go home and bring back a list of what you want to chop.”