The District of Barriere had a one hour presentation of the proposed 2014 budget on Tuesday, Feb. 18. Staff told council that the budget showed a five per cent increase in property tax rate.
Anyone that follows the workings of the District of Barriere and the surrounding communities may find that this figure is lower than expected. Clearwater’s proposed rate was 9.5 per cent.
The cost of services in the District has risen steadily over the past few years. Some of these costs are due to increases from outside suppliers, and some relate to decisions made in how the District operates.
Obliviously, some of the cost increases that were unexpected could not be budgeted for. For example, we were hit just recently with an unexpected 33 per cent increase in our lease cost for the old Ridge school where our District offices are located. No notice, just a letter that the School District needed to build a fund for infrastructure related costs and that cost was being passed on to those that occupied the building.
For more than a year now council has asked staff to obtain a report from the School District that would have details around the condition of the Ridge building.
We have yet to receive the report.
This report was needed to properly plan for the decision to renew our lease or not.
The District is obligated under the current lease to pay for repairs. If the roof leaks or the heating and air conditioning units break, the District pays to fix it. Not knowing the true condition of the building is a huge problem in making a proper decision as to whether we continue to lease or not.
With the recent purchase of the old HY Louie building the District now has an alternative to being held hostage by the School District.
The funds we pay for leasing would easily cover any costs of renovating the old store and relocating our District offices.
A further advantage is that the money currently spent on rent would be put towards a District owned asset. Not towards keeping a School District building in good repair. We don’t need anything fancy just a serviceable office space to house our staff and perform the business of our community.
Some other costs were expected, but outside our control. Our utility costs, like electricity and telephone service, have gone up. Our fuel costs for District vehicles have risen, as have the costs for repairs and maintenance as the vehicles age. The tipping costs for our garbage have gone to a weight based system and seem to have risen over the past year, despite our best efforts at recycling.
In the realm of budget items, we all knew about Barriere taking over responsibility for our roads late last year.
The plan was to put money aside for the first few years of incorporation to cover this added cost. Once we had to actually do the work, this money would be moved from the roads reserve account to cover the expenses.
The plan in the 2014 proposed budget is to do this transfer of funds again, thereby reducing the need for a tax increase at this time. The theory here is that the District will see a growth in the tax base in future years and that would help to cover the costs for the roads as we go along.
Staff recommended that instead of increasing the taxes to cover the costs of future infrastructure maintenance on the water and sewer systems, there would be an increase in the user paid utilities charges to pay for current expenses, as well as save for future needs. This plan was approved by council and will be implemented for the water rates at least in 2014.
Included in the proposed budget are extra initial and continuing costs related to additional trail construction, additional parks and roads staff, and other items that will be up for discussion once council has proper feedback from the public.
Please remember that this is your money that is being used to pay for what is done, or not done throughout the community. More nice to do projects, or better water? You do have a say in the matter.