Telkwa projects tax increase, important upgrades

It’s still early in the process, but the current budget plan for Telkwa includes a 1.59 per cent increase in taxes and service fees.

It’s still early in the process, but the current budget plan for the Village of Telkwa includes a 1.59 per cent increase in taxes and service fees.

The biggest cost increase for residents of Telkwa comes in the form of a transit levy, which sees an increase to $21.10 from $12.30 in 2012.

The increase is to cover Telkwa’s share, $6,000 of a new bus purchased by BC Transit for the region.

The sewer utility rate increases by 10 per cent, rising to $194.81 from $177.10 in 2012.

The transit and sewer utility levies, combined with a one per cent increase in property tax rates to cover inflation, yield a 1.59 per cent tax increase for village property tax owners.

Fees for fire and emergency services, the dike system, parcel taxes, water taxes and garbage all remain the same.

Planning a municipal budget is not an easy task, Telkwa Councillor Rimas Zitkauskas said.

“The most difficult part is establishing priorities and hoping the partners [senior governments] you need to proceed have the same priorities,” he said.

Although Telkwa has until May 15 to finalize their budgets, the decisions by senior governments to provide funding for certain budget items are sometimes not made until later.

During the development of the budget, council considers the vision outlined in the Official Community Plan and the Integrated Community Sustainability Plan which have a set of projects to move the community forward.

Total revenues for 2013 are projected at $4.213 million, with $2.3 million coming from government grants, $726,254 coming from municipal taxes, $626,826 collected for other governments, $189,212 from reserves and the remainder from various other sources.

“That’s great news,” Zitkauskas said.

“We’ve managed, through great planning, staff and grant writing, to acquire back in the form of grants, an important amount of the tax money residents and businesses paid out to senior levels of government.”

The big ticket items in the budget are the municipal building biomass heating project worth an estimated $644,320, a $284,653 upgrade to the soccer fields and $250,000 worth of upgrades to the interior of the municipal building.

Funds for the latter have been applied for through the Northern Development Initiative Trust.

Other projects include phase two of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan at a cost of $185,000 and construction of retail rental units in the municipal building at a cost of $70,000, if long-term leases are secured.

Part of Telkwa’s OCP calls for the village to draw $88,000 from its sewer reserve and another $280,000 from Gas Tax Fund transfers it has tucked aside over the past three years.

The sewer reserve funds cover the cost of a planned upgrading of the lift station at Eddy Park.

“Every spring we get overwhelmed at that lift station because of spring runoff, so we’re going to do work around that to reduce the infiltration of groundwater,” Zitkauskas explained.

It is hoped the work at the lift station will eliminate the need to hire a pumper truck to siphon off the excess water.

The Gas Tax transfer funds are targeted towards building out the capacity of the concrete water reservoir in Woodland Park by 50 per cent.

The additional reservoir capacity is part of a long-term plan, Zitkauskas explained, to make repairs to the current reservoir and eventually add a second reservoir to meet future development needs.

The reserves would then see important contributions for several years to bring the total to $1.07 million by 2017.

The five-year financial plan also projects the Village of Telkwa to pay down its debt.

Under the current plan, the debt, currently sitting at slightly less than $425,000, would be eliminated by 2015.