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Council set to pass 2014 budget during next week’s regular meeting of council
Town of Osoyoos council is set to pass its 2014 budget and five-year financial plan next Monday after holding its annual open public hearing relating to the budget in council chambers this past Monday evening.
As has become tradition for the past several years, local resident and former town council candidate Sy Murseli was the only member of the public to speak in relation to the budget.
Following a presentation by Jim Zakall, the town’s director of financial services, members of town council voted to pass second and third reading of the 2014 budget and five-year financial plan.
They will officially endorse the 2014 budget and financial plan at Monday’s regular meeting of council.
Following two weeks of regular budget meetings, council appears prepared to endorse a budget that will see a 1.75 per cent increase to property taxes, which will result in an increase of $41,350 in tax-based revenue for the town.
The majority of that money will be allocated to increase funding for capital projects – a total of $27,280 – in 2014.
Garbage and recycling fees will increase by $3 to $122 in 2014 to account for the transportation consumer price index increase to the town’s garbage and recycling collection contract and tipping fee increases from $72 to $82 per tonne at the Osoyoos landfill.
Sewer rates will increase by $3.35 annual for a single family residence and increase to $227 in the town and $320 in Area A of the Rural District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS). This is an increase in user fees of $17,400.
Water rates will increase by $10 annually for a single family residence to $307 and 3.37 per cent to other water rates for an increase in user fees of $45,000.
Water district rates will increase by $10 annually for a single family residence and 2.89 per cent to other water district rates, which is an increase in user fees of $13,700.
The cost to an average single family residence in Osoyoos assessed at roughly $350,000 will be $24.54 when you factor in the small property tax increase and marginal increases in user fees, said Zakall.
Mayor Stu Wells said Zakall did a terrific job in preparing this year’s budget and five-year financial and capital budget plans and he doesn’t believe many property owners are going to be upset with the modest increase in taxes and user fees.
“I think this is a very solid budget and one that is moving Osoyoos forward,” he said.
Osoyoos has had some of the smallest property tax and user fees increases of any community in British Columbia over the past several years, said Wells.
“I think the people can be proud of this budget,” he said.
Marginal property tax increases and user fee increases are necessary to ensure the level of services that local citizens demand are being kept intact, said Wells.
“We remain one of the most progressive communities in B.C.,” he said.
Coun. Sue McKortoff praised Zakall and other senior staff for preparing a budget that keeps tax increases low and ensures local citizens will continue to receive an outstanding level of community services.
“I think Mr. Zakall has done an excellent job of putting together all of the options we have considered … and we took our time going over every single item” in the budget, she said. “I support this budget fully.”
Murseli’s biggest complaint to town council for several years is related to the town’s policy of contracting out its civil engineering services to True Consulting.
Murseli again insisted the town could save significant dollars by hiring its own engineers, however, Coun. Michael Ryan strongly disagreed.
Members of council have taken a long look at the costs involved in putting together its own engineering department and “it’s simply not feasible” to create one at a reasonable price when compared to the quality services provided to the town by True Consulting, said Ryan.
“It is money well spent,” he said.
Some of the major capital projects that will take place in 2014 once the budget is officially endorsed by council on Monday include:
• $468,700 to build the Gyro Park Multi-purpose Plaza.
• $694,000 to build Phase One of the town’s new reclaimed water expansion project to the Osoyoos Airport.
• $178,000 for other major waterfront landscape projects.
• $200,000 for parkland acquisitions.
• $55,000 to pay for a Community Services Master Plan.
• $31,000 to purchase new computer equipment for the town.
• $63,000 to purchase new furniture and equipment.
• $50,000 to build the Spartan Drive turnaround.
• $133,000 to build a new sidewalk on Jubilee Crescent.
• $43,000 to complete Phase 2 of the Osoyoos Splash Park.
• $27,500 to upgrade the washrooms at Jack Shaw Gardens.
• $10,000 to upgrade the Osoyoos Dog Park.
• $15,000 to upgrade the West Bench ball diamons.
• $30,000 to upgrade the women’s shower facilities at the Sonora Community Centre.
• $20,000 to uprade the Pioneer Walkway washrooms.
• $79,000 to build fire hall design plans.
• $187,000 for fire hall design plans and construction drawings subject to the new fire hall gaining approval during a spring referendum.
• $250,000 to upgrade the 36 Avenue and Bayview Crescent stormwater treatment.
• $184,000 to upgrade the Bayview Crescent stormwater treatment near Campo Marina restaurant.
• $42,000 to purchase new fire department equipment.
• $330,000 to upgrade numerous wells, booster stations and reservoirs in town.
Last year’s property tax increase was also close to two per cent, while members of town council voted to not increase property taxes at all in 2012.
The financial plan must be adopted through a bylaw at any time before the annual property tax bylaw is adopted and provincial legislation requires that council must adopt its annual property tax bylaw before May 15, said Zakall.
Even though council is approving the new budget in early March, local residents will still continue to receive their property tax bill in the summer.
The provincial Community Charter requires a public hearing related to the budget must be held annually.