The Village of Nakusp’s 2012 budget presentation took place on one of the first summer-like evenings of the year, perhaps the reason there was only one member of the public in the gallery. Department heads Terry Warren (Fire Department), Richard Cann (Parks and Recreation), Mike Peterson (Public Works), and Pat Farish (Nakusp Hot Springs) all showed up at the end of a warm day for the fiscal presentation. Here are the broad strokes of the budget.
The Village has proposed an increase of two per cent in property tax revenues as a standard increase to keep up with increases across the board. This increase will translate to an approximate increase of 1.5 per cent to each tax class.
In the powerpoint presentation, the budget was broadly divided into an Operating Budget and a Capital Budget.
The Operating Budget is generally a “status quo” budget, said CAO Linda Tynan. The budget doesn’t come with a long wish list from the Village, and no real sweeping changes are being proposed.
In an effort to tighten up budgets, they have been adjusted downward so that money that hadn’t been used previously is no longer being budgeted in. For example, if there were $1,000 budgeted but only $850 were used, the Village now budgets for $850 rather than $1,000.
Administrative costs were higher than desired in 2011, due in part to high auditing and finance fees, as well as fees associated with large projects and staff changes.
“The main reason that administrative costs were high in 2011 is the change of senior staff,” said Tynan, “Between illness, training new staff (the CFO was still relatively new in 2011), [and the] departure of the CAO there were many challenges.
“Auditing costs were more than expected because the auditors had to do more legwork themselves as our staff were busy dealing with other issues,” added Tynan, who pointed out that 2011 was a year of big projects as well as changes in senior staff. Additional fees for contractors and staff were behind the rise in costs, which should come down as staffing changes settle out, said Tynan.
One such anticipated change is the arrival of the Village’s new Chief Financial Officer. Robert Richards is taking up the position left vacant by Don Willems, and will be relocating from Vancouver to start in the Village Office May 22. Richards, who grew up in Armstrong, has been looking for a chance to move to a smaller centre and be trained in municipal finances. CAO Tynan said Richards comes highly recommended.
The proposed Operational Budget will be affected by more changes in the coming year, and soon. Labour is a large proportion of the operating budget, and changes are on the way. The new collective agreement to be negotiated between the Village and CUPE local 2450 in July will have an impact.
One known expenditure is the addition of a marketing contract position of $25,000 at the Nakusp Hot Springs.
For the Capital Budget, on the administrative side, the Village office is due for some upgrades including additions to the back porch area and a railing for the front entrance. In combination with the cost of agenda automation, which the presentation said “will reduce staff time in preparation of agendas, ensure timely access to agendas for press and public, and dramatically reduce [the] volume of paper produced for each meeting,” $15,000 will be transferred to cover the Office projects.
“The costs associated with agenda automation will be the hardware/software that we decide to go with,” detailed Tynan. “Many municipalities are going with tablets such as iPads as the technology is reliable and the agenda works well on them. I anticipate the costs to be significantly less than what we have budgeted.”
The Village is aiming to increase communication with residents, particularly to court public input around budget issues in terms of municipal services. A new website will be developed this year, and Mayor Hamling would like to hold a public information session in the fall where the public can ask Department Managers questions.
The two largest items on the Capital Budget are the proposed upgrade to the Arena building envelope, which it is estimated will cost over $400,000.
Richard Cann, Parks and Rec. Manager, said the upgrade will address issues that have been ongoing for years. The money will be used to repair the ageing building, particularly issues with the roof such as leaks.
The much-anticipated Kuskanax Creek Footbridge replacement will be the biggest change up at the Nakusp Hot Springs, with most of its costs being covered by the combination of a B.C. Provincial Community Recreation Grant and a CBT grant. Civil Engineering Technologist Simon Bamber is heading up the project.
An operating deficit for 2011 of $225,000 is anticipated, due to large infrastructure projects that took place last year such as upgrades to the water treatment plant and the new sewage treatment facilities. Statutory reserves were also drained dry this year, contributing to the overall deficit.
At this point, this means that there are no funds readily available in case of emergency or unexpected expense, which is a vulnerable place to be, said Tynan. However, council has chosen not to do a lot of borrowing over the last few years, which means that debt level isn’t high and Nakusp has a good credit rating, if the need to borrow should arise, she added.
Looking at the relative debt load being carried by the Village, Nakusp is still slightly below the average in comparison to other B.C. villages, but the CAO emphasized the need for long term financial planning, something she is already working on.
“The first steps are ensuring that council is very aware of the current situation, debt loads, reserves, etc. and that projects have completed and started to operate so we better understand the annual operating impact of them,” she said. “The purpose of developing a long term financial plan is to be able to provide a road map to council and the public and to really look at costs that are likely to be incurred in the coming years like infrastructure maintenance and upkeep…and to have a plan.”