City's $20.83-million budget unveiled; 3% tax increase for residents

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
February 8th, 2013

The City of Castlegar is all set to unveil its $20.826-million 2013 budget at a public meeting Feb. 18.

The meeting, slated for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. (directly preceding council’s regular meeting at 7 p.m.) will be an opportunity for residents to see what the city has planned and offer feedback and suggestions before the document is adopted.

Residential taxes are set to increase three per cent and commercial one per cent, with heavy industrial remaining the same.

City Finance Committee chair Deb McIntosh said it’s vital that residents attend the open house meeting.

“It’s critical that people show an interest in how our tax dollars are spent – it’s your money,” she said. “Tell us what you think and how you feel, and give us some direction, so we’re not left having to second guess you.”

McIntosh said residents may be excited to hear about the proposed $1.2-million lazy river features slated for Millennium Park (now redesigned to be safe from potential flooding like the city experienced last summer) – but the important part of the budget, while not sexy per se, is about planning and fiscal responsibility.

“I think working really hard on keeping our infrastructure up-to-date and in good condition is critical,” she said. “Kudos to staff for keeping us abreast of what’s happening and what our options are, while staying true to the ‘pay-as-you-go’ philosophy that has worked so well for us over the years.”

In his report to council, city director of finance Andre Buss explained the increase in residential taxes.

Taxation is an important component of the budget and taxation policy should factor in the changes incorporated into the budget (ie: new fire department personnel) and provide a contribution to capital infrastructure renewal,” he said, explaining fire department call-outs have increased by 105 per cent since 1999. “A three-per-cent increase will raise an additional, approximately, $118,000 and will increase municipal taxation by approximately $22 per annum for the average single family residence. This approximately $22 increase will help to offset the cost of an additional position as well as the cost effects of a new command vehicle.”

Some of the projects Buss listed as key budget components include:

· The Millennium Park Natural Outdoor Swimming Pool Project ($1,200,000). Through a pubic input and consultation process the City developed a Millennium Park Master Plan and incorporated the document into the City’s Official Community Plan. The Millennium Park Master Plan identified many projects, one of which is the Natural Ponds project. The province has provided a grant of $400,000 for this project.

· A Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan Project on Connors Road ($250,000). This project was identified in the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan and is contingent on receiving a $150,000 grant from the province.

· South Castlegar Storm Expansion (phase III), ($205,000).

· 9th Avenue Storm Project ($160,000).

· Storm Master Plan ($100,000).

· Road Works projects have been identified in a report, by the Director of Transportation and Civic Works, that appeared in the January 21, 2013 Council agenda. $334,000 has been placed in the 2013 budget for road works.

· Enhanced Streetlight Project. The City will complete the installation of new streetlights which will reduce annual energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and will provide the City with an energy rebate in order to receive payback of its initial investment in this new infrastructure. $211,300 in incentive funding has been included in the budget to replace City streetlights with LED lights in 2013. The total cost of the project will be approximately $600,000.The City has also budgeted $40,000 to erect audible streetlights at 22nd Street and Columbia Avenue. This project will be 50 per cent financed by the province.

· Completion of the $1.4 million Water Treatment Centre Project. An IHA requirement is to provide second barrier water protection. This project will be completed in 2013. The City received a grant of $760,000 for this project from the province.

· Completion of the Residential Water Meter Program, $600,000. This project is fully financed using Community Works (Gas Tax) dollars.

· A $400,000 budget line item has been included in the Airport budget for a Required Navigational Performance (RNP) project. RNP is expected to improve aircraft landing reliability. This project is contingent upon receiving $300,000 in grants.

The open house will be held in the Community Forum across from City Hall.



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