Budget process shows tax dollars at work

Discussion regarding the 2011 municipal budget process began last week with Chief Financial Officer Stephen Banman’s presentation of the proposed operating budget and capital budget. The proposed operating budget has been designed to maintain current levels of service. In addition to sustaining the community’s current assets, a number of capital projects are being recommended to council emphasizing the improvement of aging infrastructure and increasing public safety.

Discussion regarding the 2011 municipal budget process began last week with Chief Financial Officer Stephen Banman’s presentation of the proposed operating budget and capital budget. The proposed operating budget has been designed to maintain current levels of service. In addition to sustaining the community’s current assets, a number of capital projects are being recommended to council emphasizing the improvement of aging infrastructure and increasing public safety.

The proposed operating budget pays for functions such as policing, fire protection, the operation and maintenance of infrastructure, municipal planning, public transit, and waste collection. Though it doesn’t include any major changes to the services the District currently provides, it does call for an $881,000 increase in funding over 2010 levels to preserve them. The additional funding is proposed to come from a four per cent property tax increase.

With $1,110,000 in capital funding requests from the District’s various departments, but only $248,900 available for such projects, one of council’s most challenging tasks will be prioritizing the community’s needs.

Chief Administrative Officer Alberto De Feo has offered some recommendations as to which capital funding requests he believes should be approved. Still, council will have to do more than just approve De Feo’s suggestions. The recommended capital projects add up to a total of $462,000—leaving a shortfall of $213,000 for capital projects in the proposed budget.

Complicating the situation further, is the four per cent property tax increase that is already built into the proposed budget. With the increase the average homeowner in Lake Country can expect to pay $55 more per year and council is not keen on placing too much of a tax burden on residents.

At $150,000 the most costly capital project recommended for approval is the creation of a pathway on Davidson Road from Okanagan Centre Road East up the hill to Bond Road.

Another expensive recommendation is $85,000 for the completion of an integrated transport framework. The purpose of the document is to serve as comprehensive plan dealing with how mobility infrastructure including roads, pathways and transit should be developed in the community so that users have safe and easy access to local amenities.

Other big-ticket items recommended for approval include $50,000 in upgrades for municipal computers, $45,000 for the construction of a new dock at Coral Beach, $20,000 for SCBA bottles and packs for the fire department, HVAC system replacements at the RCMP Detachment and Senior’s Centre for $17,500 and $17,000 respectively, and $15,000 to re-paint the bottom level of the municipal hall.

One issue that De Feo identified in his advice to council is that Lake Country needs to take a serious look at the abundance of aging infrastructure and begin working on a plan to make improvements to it. He cautioned council that failing to do so would eventually result in unmanageable costs to replace things such as broken water mains.

Coun. Penny Gambell agreed with De Feo’s assessment.

“So far the District has focused on buying new things instead of retrofitting our old infrastructure. We’re going to have to look and this and think about how fast we can get some of these things done,” said Gambell.

The total of the proposed budget for 2011 is $17.9 million. The discussion concerning capital funding requests will resume at a special council meeting on February 3.

newsroom@lakecountrynews.net

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