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Pemberton council approves four-per-cent tax increase

Build up of reserves readies village for upgrades, maintenance

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The Village of Pemberton (VOP) has approved a four-per-cent tax increase for property owners, a zero-per-cent increase for sewage user fees and an operational budget that hasn't increased.

The budget — part of a five-year financial plan for the VOP — is designed to collect modest amounts in order to repair and maintain aging infrastructure, said VOP Mayor Mike Richman.

In previous years, Richman said the budget did little to build up reserve funds for necessary maintenance. But that ended with recent water rate adjustments and the ensuing build up of reserves, which helped enormously when the VOP had to undertake a costly water system project that was required as old plumbing was leaching lead. As such, the project did not require going to taxpayers to fund it.

"With the operational budget being flat, we decided to go forward with a four-per-cent increase entirely for surplus and reserves," he said.

"We don't want to leave the village in a vulnerable place," Richman said. "Without that kind of reserve building up, it forces us into a situation that if something were to happen, we're either hitting our taxpayers really, really heavily, or we're borrowing a ton of money to fix whatever the problem is, which is still hitting taxpayers heavily."

Richman said the problem is common in smaller B.C. communities with aging infrastructures and with the provincial government offloading more costs onto municipalities. And taxpayers often are hit unfairly.

"We want to make sure those capital costs are not hitting any group more than the others. We want to make sure it's spread fairly over time. I don't want taxpayers paying for that 20 years from now, it's got to be balanced and it's got to be fair. So the focus is to build those reserves, leave us in a less vulnerable place and make sure that the cost is spread out," he said.

"When we did a tax increase for the last two years, our operational budget was flat, we did a tax increase to do the road reserve and that is now embedded in the budget. So we're building the road reserve slowly."

Richman said the timing works well because roads "are a big one."

"Driving through town you'll see they've been deteriorating slowly and this winter they got hit really hard and paving is super expensive."

Richman said he's pleased with the VOP's finances and the fact that there are no unwieldy loans.

"The debt load is not massive for the size of our town. It's there but it's very manageable. We look ahead to some of the debts we'll be retiring in the coming years, it puts us in a good place," he said.

"Having those reserves also allows us to leverage more grants because there's matching components to all of the federal and provincial grants. By building these reserves, we have some leverage. I'm pleased with that."

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