Village of Pemberton (VOP) Council is finishing up its budget process.
So far, council has approved operations and capital spending that would not result in a tax increase, but it has conditionally approved a four-per-cent increase for a road reserve and will consider a capital reserve transfer and a new capital project at its next Committee of the Whole meeting on Thursday, March 20 at 1 p.m. that could increase taxes.
"We're going to look at (the expenditures) a little more closely and see what we want to advance this year, and what would be the tax increases," explained VOP Mayor Mike Richman.
Last year, the Village approved a four-per-cent tax increase for property owners for a road reseve, a $54,000 increase in water user fees for reserves, a zero-per-cent increase for sewer user fees and an operational budget that didn't increase.
This year, council is considering setting aside money for a capital road reserve, repairs to the popular One Mile Lake boardwalk, and money for a contract, project-coordinator position that would be used to advance Village priorities, like improving transit and affordable housing.
The Village has traditionally chosen not to set aside money for infrastructure reserves, said Richman — and doing so is important.
"We have to plan for the future so we don't end up in a dire situation — whether it's 10 or 70 years from now," he said.
Property values went up significantly in 2017, with assessed value for all classes of residential property rising by 24.15 per cent overall in Pemberton.
This can impact property taxes if a property's assessed values is higher than the average change in property values in the muncipality.
Overall, Pemberton's mayor said he was happy with the budget that staff had brought forward. The budget process kicked off at a Feb. 6 Committee of the Whole meeting. "I think our department heads brought forward very modest capital projects," said Richman.
One notable project is the upgrading of the Village's IT systems. The budget carried forward surplus and reserve money from 2017 for eight workstations ($13,000) and a new server ($30,000). "We all know how important IT is and nowdays it requires constant upgrading if you want to stay current and efficient," said Richman.
Another highlight includes construction of the Friendship Trail Bridge ($1,108,155), paid for with donations and grants.
The Village is also planning on doing minor renovations to its fire hall to improve office space ($30,000) and upgrade the hall's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and exhaust system ($60,000).
The cost is being covered by provincial money, which was given to the Village because its firefighters helped battle forest fires this summer.
Richman said that the HVAC upgrade is important to keep the Village's largely volunteer firefighters safe.
"When we're doing certain work on the trucks, we have to make sure we back them out of the bay (right now)," said Richman. "You can't let anything run because there is not enough air exchange to make it safe with the CO2."
Solid waste is managed by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District for Pemberton (SLRD), so taxes flow from its assessments. Pemberton pays the SLRD a lump sum for services provided and collects the money on behalf of the SLRD.
Since the sewer system is 100 per cent funded by user fees, there is no tax allocation for operations or capital projects. All parcels that abut a water/sewer main also pay a frontage tax that funds the debt on any water/sewer infrastructure.
It is expected that a $40,000 reserve will be added in 2018 through an increase to user fees for sewer while a $54,000 reserve increase will be added for water user fees.
In the Village's Statement of Operations ending Dec. 31, 2017, it said that the year-end spending estimate on sewer was $688,123 — the budget for 2018 is $936,110. The statement also said that year-end spending estimates for water in 2017 was $1,488,429 and the budget for 2018 is $1,238,204.
"Hopefully we can finalize the budget and finalize the tax increases that will be presented in April," said Richman.