As Sechelt council members entered their first round of budget discussions last week, a 9.17 per cent tax increase for next year was on the table.
Council members and staff spent two days deliberating the provisional budget, Nov. 21 and 22, with public consultations this week and early council approvals scheduled for Dec. 6.
Sechelt’s general operating budget shows a deficit of $1,162,776 to cover its 2024 needs (or a 9.17 per cent tax increase).
The largest expenses the district had this year were staffing, information technology – including short-term rental monitoring software – and RCMP services (which included funding for 12 municipal officers).
This figure is separate from the new operating requests, which hover at about $2.1 million.
New operating requests of note included $500,000 for an Official Community Plan (OCP) update – contingent on funding from the federal Housing Accelerator Fund. Staff added that if that grant is not secured, the scope of the OCP update will be reduced accordingly with the district spending $101,308.
Also proposed is $250,000 for a drainage master plan.
A $33 increase to garbage fees, totalling $303 annually, was proposed. This follows a $27 jump last year. David Douglas, director of Financial Services, said that the district used $100,000 from the solid waste reserve to slowly change that service’s fee structure.
Douglas noted the increased expense in the park budget, which rose to $1.6 million from 1.5 million. (He noted that on top of rising costs, the district had to purchase almost double the number of doggie bags this year than they did last.)
The sewer operating budget showed a surplus of over $480,000, which will be transferred over to the sewer capital, and used in 2024.
When it came to Sechelt septage operations, the staff report noted that they are “not in a sustainable position.” The department is generating revenue higher than the annual operating costs, however, over the last three years the rate fees have more than doubled while service fees have not.
The budget also notes $13 million in capital carry forward projects and $10 million in capital spending proposed for 2024.
In 2023, the property tax rate increased 7.2 per cent and in 2022, it increased 8.08 per cent.
Looking for provincial help
“This year, we've incurred a lot of costs for things that are frankly the provincial government's responsibility,” said Mayor John Henderson, referencing the work of the community events coordinator and hiring of private security. “We paid real money, including security fees, for work that should be under the auspices of the province, so I’d like to start tracking that because I think we should be sending the province a bill.”
Coun. Donna Bell added to his point, referencing current district plans that require provincial assistance, such as the crosswalk at Mason Road and the one at Shornecliffe.
“How long do we wait for the province to do those things when there's serious risk and concern for our community?” She asked.
Public consultations are planned Nov. 28 at noon and and at 7 p.m. Dec. 6, early approvals at council are planned. Dec. 11 public sessions are planned for noon and 7 p.m. And the next round of council deliberations are scheduled for Dec. 13.
Jordan Copp is the Coast Reporter’s civic and Indigenous affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.