Town finalizes 2013 budget

The Town of Smithers has proposed a two per cent tax levy increase to allow for funding of key community projects in their 2013 budget.

The Town of Smithers has proposed a two per cent tax levy increase to allow for funding of key community projects in their 2013 budget.

The exact effect on Smithers homeowners won’t be known until early April when council meets to set the tax rates, which combined with the tax levy increase, will determine the tax implications.

“This budget represents a balance; we’re making strategic investments to improve our community while avoiding large increases in property tax,” Mayor Taylor Bachrach said.

“The reality is the cost of delivering local government services goes up every year.

“Part of the increase is related to those costs and part of the increase is to achieve some of our objectives.”

One of the increased costs is policing.

Compared to last year, the town has seen a nine per cent increase in RCMP costs so they chose to utilize a $113,330 RCMP budget surplus to help keep the resulting tax levy low.

“Council felt that was money taxpayers have already paid toward these services so it would be a fair and balanced approach to take some of that surplus and apply it to this year’s operating budget,” Bachrach explained.

On the capital side of the budget, there are some large expenditures including: $3.6 million for the new arena, $650,000 for water line looping on Railway Ave. and $238,000 for water and sewer infrastructure at the Smithers Regional Airport.

“On the capital side, the arena is our number one priority for 2013,” Bachrach said.

“We’ve made a commitment to getting that done.”

Some of the highlights of the operating budget include: $200,000 for street paving, $89,000 to restore public works staffing and increase staff capacity at Smithers Regional Airport and $15,000 toward implementing the recommendations of the Bike-Friendly Task Force.

Also of note, Councillor Mark Bandstra said, is the $15,000 being spent on a business and land-use plan for the Fall Fairgrounds to guide future development of this site.

“It doesn’t involve a ton of money, but the Fall Fairgrounds are a big asset for our community,” Bandstra said.

“How can we better use that space as an economic driver?”

On April 9, the 2013 budget and 2013-2017 Financial Plan will be presented to the public at 6:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on Aldous St.

“We welcome feedback from the public, “Bachrach said.

“Get involved in the budget process and if you have any questions, let us know.”