Sechelt councillors had mixed reactions to staff’s presentation of a 2014 budget boasting no tax increases, no service level decreases and some big-ticket, one-time items during their Nov. 27 committee of the whole meeting.
The preliminary budget was produced in record time with chief of innovation and growth Ron Buchhorn noting, “I believe this is the first time in the history of Sechelt that we’ve presented a budget at the end of November, which will actually be approved before we start the next fiscal year.”
The budget calls for a total of $20,997,759 in capital expenditures next year (over $15 million of which is to pay for the new sewer treatment plant) and seeks some short-term borrowing of $4,411,108 to make sure capital projects move forward.
The budget also draws on reserves to facilitate things such as the building of a new facility for parks and public works staff.
Those staff members were moved from a building at the sewage treatment plant site on Ebbtide Street to a temporary area when construction on the new treatment plant began.
The estimated cost for a permanent facility for parks and public works staff on Lot L (off Dusty Road) is estimated at $1,005,250 and would be fully funded through reserves, according to the preliminary budget.
Coun. Alice Lutes raised issue with the budget’s plan to continue drawing on reserves in 2014.
“Looking at the proposed projects, there’s an awful lot of things that are coming out of the reserves and from 2013’s estimated balance of reserves to 2014’s estimated balance, we’re down a little over $8 million,” she said. “To me that’s too much to spend in any one year.”
Councillors debated raising taxes or axing some projects to lessen the draw on reserves.
One project that raised eyebrows was the proposed round-about to be installed at Dolphin and Trail at a cost of $697,000.
“This is the main access to our golf course, to our recreation facilities, to the new Vanta Pacific project, to the tennis club, so we’re proposing that we install our first round-about here and give it a try, see how the residents like it,” Buchhorn said.
Residents will be able to provide feedback on Sechelt’s preliminary budget next week when the District presents it at a public meeting on Dec. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Seaside Centre.
You can view the preliminary budget in its entirety at www.sechelt.ca.