Council mines reserves to balance budget

The Town of Lake Cowichan has approved its five-year financial plan, which includes transferring reserve

The Town of Lake Cowichan has approved its five-year financial plan, which includes transferring reserve funds, reducing industrial and business tax rates and attempting to increase government grants for infrastructure projects.

On Tuesday, April 26, the town provided an opportunity for members of the public to provide input on the financial plan before it was voted on later that evening during the regular monthly council meeting.

Joseph Fernandez, the town’s chief administrative officer, noted this year the town is looking at transfers from past surpluses in order to balance the 2016 budget.

“This is a year where if we were to look at tax increases or user fees we just wouldn’t be able to make the budget balance,” he said.

“We’re facing a difficult year this year but because we’ve got several surplus funds we’re able to make the budgets balance.”

According to the financial plan, the town will transfer $425,894 from surplus funds this year. It will also transfer $1.15 million from reserve funds.

Director of finance Ronnie Gill noted these steps will allow the town to avoid accumulating debt in 2016.

“There is $2.56 million in capital expenses so it’s a heavy year for capital improvements, so it’s good we’ve got reserves,” she said.

Gill referred to the $1.6 in capital expenditures in the water utility fund, which will go toward upgrading the town’s water treatment facility.

“These are mandated by the Ministry of Health,” she said. “These are improvements we must make by Dec. 31, 2017.”

One of the stated objectives of the town’s five-year (2016-2020) financial plan is to encourage investment and employment in the area by striving “to reduce the industrial and business tax rates.” The plan notes there is currently a limited industrial taxation base within the municipality.

However, this year the town is keeping business tax rates the same as last year because of the higher-than-normal capital expenses.

“And our business rates last time I checked, which has been a couple years, were lower than the neighbouring communities,” said Gill.

The financial plan prioritizes strategic community investment funds (government grants) provided by the Province of British Columbia, which not only pay for infrastructure projects but can reduce the level of municipal taxation. Currently 39 per cent of the town’s revenue comes from property taxes while approximately 16 per cent comes from government grants.

The plan states: “The Town will attempt to increase the sources of government grants to complete much needed infrastructure capital projects in the municipality.”

Furthermore, the plan also states the town will work to continue to “provide tax exemptions to charitable non-profit organizations and places of public worship as council recognizes the efforts and activities of volunteer and community groups,” while also pledging to periodically review these exemptions.

Members of the public were invited to ask questions about the financial plans. The questions centered on the upcoming Sunfest Country Music Festival. One person asked how much money would be allocated for extra policing, garbage collection and washroom maintenance.

Fernandez said that policing costs are not handled by the town. Mayor Ross Forrest said the only money designated by the town for Sunfest weekend would be for garbage collection.

Another member of the public asked a similar question, expressing concerns about Sunfest weekend.

“Do you not expect additional costs to the town because of the Sunfest event? … [Such as] vandalism, washrooms, traffic, on and on it goes,” he said.

“It just seems to me there are some contingency costs that should be thrown into the pot just in case. And if not, what would you do if you ran into a bunch of extra costs from Sunfest? Where would you get the money from?”

Forrest noted this was a public hearing on the financial plan and not Sunfest but said there are funds that could be accessed in the event of an emergency.

“It’s hard to budget for something you haven’t had before and you don’t know what that expense is going to be,” he said, referring to Sunfest.

The financial plan bylaw was carried unanimously by council.

Just Posted

From left: Thomas Kuecks, David Lane, John Ivison, Denis Berger, Rod Gray, and James Kuecks are Cabin Fever. Catch their performance on the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre website. (Ashley Foot photo)
A&E column: Music Festival winners, CVAC awards, and Cabin Fever

The latest from the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley MLA Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

BC Green Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

The city-owned lot at 361 St. Julien St., which has been home to a temporary homeless site for more than a year, will be sold and plans are to build a three-storey mixed-use development there, Peter de Verteuil, Duncan CAO explained at a recent council meeting. (File photo)
New development planned for homeless site in Duncan

Lot on St. Julien Street would see three-storey building

Historian and longtime Citizen columnist T.W. Paterson photographs the historical wreckage of a plane on Mount Benson. Paterson recently won an award from the British Columbia Historical Foundation. (Submitted)
Cowichan’s Tom W. Paterson wins award for historical writing

British Columbia Historical Federation hands Recognition Award to local writer

This electric school bus is the newest addition to the Cowichan Valley School District’s fleet. (Submitted)
Editorial: New electric school bus good place to start

Changing public transit like buses to electric really is important.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read