Smithers taxpayers are paying $6.13 million for a $23.6-million Town budget. That’s up from $5.96 million last year.
The assessments going up, the average homeowner saw their property value rise to about $277,000. That average owner will see a $22 increase in their property taxes (that does not include regional district or school district taxes). If your property value stays the same this year, you would actually pay less tax with the mill rate going down.
What is being built
The big capital projects of note include arena safety measures following the Fernie ammonia leak tragedy. But while council approved a budget of $277,000 for a new chiller, eye wash station, ammonia leak detectors and ammonia plant exhaust stacks, the chiller may not be put in if a heat exchange system involving the pool next door could be worked out with the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako.
More capital spending is going to sports with the completion of the third soccer field at Chandler Park. The track will be taken out and a fence put up to keep soccer balls from bouncing on the road.
This year’s $171,000 is the last money the Town of Smithers plans on putting into Chandler after past budget increases and do-overs with part of the sod. The total spent to date is $523,000.
The biggest project is of course the airport expansion and modernization, but it is counted under a separate category as airport improvement fees are meant to pay for the $9-million construction. The work is now 45 per cent complete and the new departure lounge should start being used this summer. Carbon emissions are expected to go down 48 per cent when everything is scheduled to be done by spring 2019.
Arts & culture centre
The proposed Bulkley Valley Arts & Culture Centre will be an election issue this October, and councillors have said in past meetings that is how they want it.
The 2018 budget has $100,000 set aside for a design concept and business case for a new combined library and art gallery building at the current library’s location beside Veteran’s Peace Park. The five-year plan has a hypothetical budget of $6.4 million to construct the culture centre next year. It is planned to be built to Step 5 or passive house energy standards.
Fire department investments
What is not hypothetical is the money going to the fire department this year. The largest capital project outside of the airport and the largest increase in operating expenses is going to the department.
A $465,000, 4,000-sq-ft storage building will finally keep expensive equipment out of the elements.
This is something the fire department has been seeking for several years. It will be built across from the fire hall on Seventh Avenue. The fire department is also getting $$164,000 to complete its training centre.
The jump in operating expense is for a new half time fire department trainer at a cost of over $49,000. New Provincial requirements meant the trainer had to be hired, according to council’s budget presentation.
Automatic senior exemption ends
Water and sewer is getting $284,500 this year for upgrades. The switch from giving all seniors a water and sewer fee exemption is done this year, with only seniors in financial need now receiving a 100 per cent exemption. Eligibility is tied to the Senior Provincial Home Owner Grant Program.
Roads get $388,000. Pedestrians get a big boost with $160,000 going to sidewalks and curb cuts.
A relatively small but noticeable expense is $1,000 set aside for a Christmas tree.
Other items of note:
– Staff wages and benefits up $45,000;
– Arenas budgeted to make $30,000 less;
– Riverside Campground budgeted to make $25,500 more after a very busy 2017 ($14,000 more will be spent on contracted services and re-configuring electrical outlets);
– $30,000 extra was spent to pay for most of the cost of clearing snow off Town-owned buildings’ roofs.
– A new service agreement with the new Tourism Smithers Society will be funded by the 3 per cent hotel (Accommodation) tax, providing it $160,000 to $180,000.
Tax bills will be mailed out after the May long weekend. Bills must be paid by July 3.