A chart shows Telkwa’s total expenses for 2012.

A chart shows Telkwa’s total expenses for 2012.

Telkwa gears for growth

Telkwa residents will see a small rise in property taxes this year as the village prepares for future growth.

Telkwa residents will see a small rise in property taxes this year as the village prepares for future growth.

Once all taxes, water, sewer and garbage fees are factored in, owners of an average  single-family home with an assessed value of $170,000, will see their tax bill rise by 3 per cent, from $2,048 to $2,111.

Telkwa councillor Rimas Zitkauskas presented the 2012 to 2016 financial plan to about twenty local residents, April 10.

The plan is still in draft form, waiting for final B.C. Assessment and utilities numbers before a finished version can be sent to Victoria on May 15.

Zitkauskas  says Telkwa raised eyebrows in 2011 after a study showed the village posted the largest percentage population growth—57 per cent—of all northwest municipalities in the years from 1986 to 2009.

That growth is already yielding a boost to Telkwa’s tax base, Zitkauskas showed.

But it is also a big step that will require the village to make many infrastructure upgrades.

A recent community plan finished with an $18 million to-do list for the village, $6 million of which will go to paving Telkwa’s streets.

That groundwork will make it a lot easier for Telkwa to expand into the next stage, to a village with well above 2,000 people.

As well as capital projects, Zitkauskas stressed the importance of rebuilding Telkwa’s financial reserves—something that has been difficult in recent years given Highway 16 upgrade and other expenses that had to be  fast-tracked to be cost effective.

The draft financial plan lays out a schedule to rebuild Telkwa’s capital reserves from its current level of just over $300,000 to $900,000 by 2016.

The plan also aims to eliminate Telkwa’s debt, which was largely incurred by building up its sewer system, by the fiscal year 2015.

Retiring the debt and building up reserves not only allows Telkwa to focus on its to-do list, Zitkauskas said, but it also puts it in a stronger position to partner with other governments.

Zitkauskas noted that the federal government’s recent economic stimulus package offered municipalities a chance to start “shovel ready” projects on an even three-way split between the federal, provincial and local governments, but such offers require money in the bank.

Several residents posted advanced questions to Telkwa council before the meeting.

One resident asked for the total amount of spending on the village office building.

Councillors said the village office cost $214,504 to purchase and $54,074 to renovate.