Low turn out for town’s financial plan review

Town outlined the proposed budget projections and the major projects planned over the next four years.

The turnout for the public review process of the town’s 2013-2018 financial plan was dismal to say the least. To a crowd of three, the towns Chief Administrative Officer, Joseph Fernandez, along with Ronnie Gill, Director of Finance, outlined the proposed budget projections and the major projects planned over the next four years.

Fernandez explained that there will be a three per cent property tax increase this year to help cover the cost of the major capital projects like the South Shore Road traffic circle, projected at $600,000, the sewage treatment plant upgrades, projected at $1.7 million in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2015, and the water treatment upgrade, projected at $3.75 million in 2014.

“We went through a process, we determined what the priorities are from a financial viewpoint and we came up with the operational expenses to try and keep the operational expenditures the same as previous years. The one difficult part that we will face is the list of capital ties [projects] that we have to undertake this year,” says Fernandez.

To offset these costs, along with the three per cent residential tax increase, Fernandez and staff have proposed a $1.85 million transfer from reserve funds, and have introduced the parcel tax.

“However, after a number of tries and cuts, we have still not managed to lose the deficit. So we are looking at a deficit this year in the general budget of $833,392,” says Fernandez. “So that’s the shortfall we will be met with this year despite the three per cent increase, and the next four years, obviously, we will try and recover the deficit that was undertaken this year.”

In terms of numbers, this looks like the town will collect $1,435,143 in residential taxes in 2013, and that will gradually rise to $1,628,195 in 2017.

It is worth noting that the town has calculated grant income for both the water treatment and the sewer treatment plant upgrades over the next three years that add up to approximately $4.6 million.

However, most of the conversation centred around the three audience members, all part of the Lake Cowichan Minor Baseball Association, who had come to speak to council. Brian Hill, Micah Anderson, and Rocky Wise wanted to nail mayor and council down on when they could begin construction on the new batting cage, and what could be done to upgrade the lower ball field to accommodate the bantam team that will be playing this year.

After much discussion about how the field needs to be changed, where the batting cage should go, and how the town can help the consensus reached was that the ball association would use volunteer hours and some tools and resources from Public Works to upgrade the lower field. It was also decided that the batting cage construction would begin as soon as the budget is approved (as early as April 23) and the $10,000 allocated by the town for the project is made available. This figure does not cover labour costs, only materials.

Finalizing the location of the batting cage was a bit more difficult. The ball association would prefer the cage to be built on the upper field as it would give easier access to younger teams and help to prevent vandalism.

“The site that minor baseball would prefer,” asked Coun. Bob Day of his fellow council members, “was it determined safe by everybody?”

“In all honesty, I would like to see the batting cage not built up top,” said Superintendent of Public Works, Nagi Rizk. He pointed out that the town has spent money on having engineers redesign the configuration of both fields, and though the grants the town applied for to cover the cost of such a project have not yet been successful, they are hopeful that it will be able to happen eventually. If the cage is constructed in the upper field, it could possibly obstruct these plans.

However, after much discussion and debate, it was decided that the cage will be placed along the fence in the upper field, providing it does not obstruct any other infrastructure. 

Hill, who is president of the LCMBA, says that they have enough volunteers organized to construct the batting cage, however, he did want to put out a call for volunteers for the upgrading of the lower field. Anyone willing to make time to rake sand and soil and lift sod can contact him at