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Squamish council finds more ways to save

Work on the budget results in drop in expected rate of increase



Work by the District of Squamish has reduced prospective budget increases by 1.2 per cent.

The DOS budget was to increase the overall budget by 10 per cent for homeowners but now it has dropped to 8.8 per cent. Acting mayor Bryan Raiser cautioned that the budget process continues and further decreases are possible.

"Nothing is final until the final vote," said Raiser, who was covering for Mayor Rob Kirkham on Tuesday, April 16. "We can always bring back things and bring forward things. We had what I think was a good two-hour discussion after the public open house."

He said adjustments were made to get an expected tax increase for the business sector down from 15.6 per cent to 10.2 per cent. He cautioned that the percentages are based on an average increase for the community's average home or business.

"We're not done with ideas," said Raiser. "We're having a special meeting next week."

The councillors are now looking closely at the core budget and Raiser said with the core meaning different things to different members of council the group is defining what the core budget is and what it should include. He said services have to be cut to avoid a 15 per cent increase in the community's budget.

"I'm actually pretty impressed with staff," Raiser said. "We've challenged them and they've come back with $500,000-plus to save us this year."

The provincial government requires communities across the province to finalize their budgets and submit a balanced budget to the provincial government by early May.

Music fest requests camping fields

Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF) organizers are looking for new places to put cars and people.

The festival, which is set for Aug. 9 and 10, has asked the DOS for permission to allow festival attendees to camp on the grass sports fields used for baseball, softball and soccer closest to the concert stages. With 19,000 people expected to attend this year the organizers are looking for more camping space as the camping inventory for the event is 80 per cent sold. According to a DOS staff report, 7,500 weekend festival passes are already sold.

"This year hotels are already fully booked for the weekend of the event. Therefore event organizers have been assessing options to provide additional camping facilities and have requested use of Brennan Park fields for camping for the 2013 event," wrote economic development officer Dan McRae in a report to council.

To help handle all the out-of-town visitors the SVMF has asked for use of two fields this year to test and determine if the sports fields will work as a camping area in following years. One of the fields requested has been used in the past as a camping area for the B.C. Bike Race.

Raiser pointed out that the fields the SVMF would like to use were built by volunteers decades ago on top of hog fuel. If it rains during the music event the area being used for camping could potentially suffer significant damage.

Staff has recommended SVMF pay $25,000 to use the fields for camping with the understanding that if the fields are left damaged the SMVF will fund repairs to the grass surface above and beyond the initial fee.

According to McRae's report, regular field users were consulted and they support the SVMF request.

The issue was discussed at a committee of the whole meeting and at the end of the discussion Raiser said the councillors agreed to a staff recommendation to allow the SVMF to use the fields for camping.

At the regular council meeting that followed the committee meeting, council approved a SVMF request for a temporary commercial use permit that will allow the event organizers to use a large vacant lot in the business park as a massive vehicle parking lot. The lot in question at the end of Industrial Way was used as a bus staging area during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The temporary use permit being sought is a multi-year permit.