Although Round 1 discussions about the 2022 budget were scheduled to take place over three days, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) board wrapped up their deliberations in just two days.
On Dec. 13 and 14, the directors received presentations from community partners and stakeholders as well as SCRD senior staff. In previous years, community groups have presented their year-by-year budget requests in the pre-budget discussions. This time, those delegations were invited to present their needs and wants during Round 1 as part of the SCRD’s efforts to streamline the process.
On the first day of the discussions, 20 community groups including libraries, youth programs, tourism, cultural and heritage organizations made their case for funding, and most were approved. The budget requests totalled approximately $102,510 more than requests in 2021, because of several one-time or special project requests, such as for the Roberts Creek Legacy Garden and improvements to the Pender Harbour Health Centre. The board moved to decide the fate of several budget requests in Round 2, in order to receive more information about grants or COVID-19 funding.
Several groups had surplus from the 2020 year into 2021 and some into 2022 because of program reductions during the pandemic.
At the end of the decisions for community groups, Gibsons director Bill Beamish thanked those who applied and took note of the nine groups that requested no increases to their base funding requests compared to previous years.
“I really appreciate community partners holding the line and taking a look at their processes this year. It makes it a lot easier for us to say yes,” Beamish said.
The total cost of the more than 230 projects was included in the agenda as nearly $8.9 million, with a request to hire 16.55 full-time equivalent positions. Many of these positions will be pro-rated for 2022. Of those projects, 85 are new proposals for the board’s consideration.
The preliminary overall taxation going into Round 1 increased by $244,446 or one per cent from the 2021 amended budget. This represents an overall tax increase varying from -.01 per cent to 2.60 per cent based on electoral area. During pre-budget discussions, staff presented a “what if” taxation scenario for taxation if each category of proposals was approved (not including parcel taxes, user fees or frontage fees). Those estimates show a range from four per cent to 12.61 per cent, depending on electoral area. These numbers are subject to change as the budget discussions continue in Round 2 in the new year.
An update of taxation impacts after Round 1 discussions was not available before Coast Reporter’s print deadline, and is expected in the coming weeks.
BC Assessment changes were not reflected in the Round 1 budget figures, as the completed 2022 assessment roll is expected on January 1. Staff will also report this information in Round 2.
Included in the project list are approximately 147 carry-forward projects, but it is not known how many will make it to Round 2 as they are still in progress and the SCRD’s year-end process is not yet complete. Staff did not suggest alterations to the list or the cancellation of any carry-over projects after the pre-budget reviewed the draft list. These are projects that were approved for the 2021 budget and still have work remaining. They bring over any unused funding and do not have a direct impact on taxation.
The net cost of the carry-forward projects is around $35.75 million, Beamish noted. Sechelt director Alton Toth pointed out these projects include several big-ticket projects: the Church Road well field, Phase 3 of water metering, and the Coopers Green Hall replacement project.
Elphinstone director Donna McMahon asked if the board would see new budget proposals for repairs related to recent damage caused by November storms. Chief administration officer Dean McKinley said staff is working on a recovery plan anticipated to come forward in January, and will reach out to Emergency Management BC for recoverable costs.
“Recovery plans and projected costs for non-essential services such as parks will be brought forward to the Board for further deliberation in Q1 2022,” the agenda from a Dec. 9 meeting states. “Until such time, various areas of Mahan Trail, Cliff Gilker Park, and Katherine Lake campground along with Chaster House and Chaster Pedestrian Bridge will remain closed.”
On the second day of Round 1, the board received reports from senior staff relating to services.
A new feasibility study of long-term surface water supply sources also received much attention during the discussions on Dec. 14. Although McMahon asked if the study could wait another year or two, considering the many projects included in the budget discussions, general manager of infrastructure services Remko Rosenboom said staff is often asked during public consultations about Clowhom Lake and other options, and they need an answer.
Roberts Creek Director Andreas Tize said he was tempted to defer the study to Round 2 in order to explore adding groundwater or wells. When Sechelt director Alton Toth asked if there are contemplations for finding more sites to develop in coming years, Rosenboom said there are currently no projects in place to advance exploration of new wells.
Halfmoon Bay director Lori Pratt said she was in favour of going forward.
“We almost ran out of water this year. Water sourcing on the Coast has been an issue for more than 40 years…We’re also in an era of climate change and an era of heat domes. We can’t be putting off these long-term sourcing feasibility studies,” she said, calling for the diversification of water sources.
Pender Harbour/Egmont director Leonard Lee suggested it may be premature to explore more wells when none are online now.
Directors voted to receive confirmation from WASAC that they are still in favour of moving forward with the study, and asked staff to prepare a Round 2 budget proposal regarding groundwater sources and investigation.
Round 2 discussions are scheduled to take place Jan. 24 to 26 and will include the projected implications to taxation and budget proposals that were not fully approved in the previous round.
Community engagement will take place in the third week of January.
The 2022 budget is expected to be adopted on Feb. 24, 2022.
Find more information about the SCRD budget and process at scrd.ca/budget.