The real meat of the Town of Lake Cowichan’s 2011 budget was discussed during the town’s Monday, February 21 budget meeting, during which time some of the largest budgetary items were discussed.
Like all budget meetings thus far, the items discussed have not yet been finalized, with this article serving to provide insight into the town’s budgetary process and the justification for or against certain items the town’s elected officials bring up for discussion.
Also like all budget meetings, this one was open to the public. The following is a report on the items discussed.
South Shore Road
Upgrades to South Shore Road is a major potential budgetary item, brought up for discussion during the town’s February 21 budget meeting.
The unexpected budget item has been inspired by last month’s announcement that South Shore Road will likely be re-paved in 2012. Although the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure plans on paving the 2.4 kilometre stretch of South Shore Road through the Town of Lake Cowichan, any additional work must be done by the town.
One concern is related to potential future work required that could result in the tearing-up of the newly paved road.
“We don’t know the extent of the work that needs to be done,” the town’s superintendent of Public Works Nagi Rizk said. “There needs to be more investigation that needs to take place.”
Another concern is related to downtown revitalization, taking the re-paving as a chance to improve more than just the quality of the road, but the surrounding sidewalks and gardens.
“There will be a cost to that,” mayor Ross Forrest said. “Do you want South Shore Road to look the same as it does now? If we want some changes, that part will have a cost… This is our opportunity to make these changes now.”
“They will not share the sidewalks. They made that clear,” Rizk said, of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
This item will come up again during future budget discussions, as a possible budget item. The re-paving of additional roads, piggy-backing on the South Shore Road work, at local tax-payer’s expense, will also be discussed.
A worst-case scenario of $900,000 of borrowing this year, if the town’s gas tax application is denied, was presented to councillors for discussion, in relation to the town’s Sewage Treatment Plant upgrades.
The plant is reaching its maximum capacity during peak times, the town’s superintendent of Public Works Nagi Rizk said.
“It’s during the summer where we may not make it,” he said.
“If we don’t do this project this year, it will cost more down the road,” mayor Ross Forrest encouraged. “And we do need to have it done… I think we’re in the unfortunate position where we knew this was coming.”
“I think it’s prudent we continue with the project,” councillor Tim Mcgonigle said.
The town is still waiting on the results of a $1.3 million gas tax application.
As reported in the Gazette when the $50 sewer parcel tax was first introduced last year, the parcel tax alone would take 60 years to pay off the project, which is estimated to cost about $5.35 million.
Phase 1 is proposed for 2011, and would cost $1.6 million, with the town’s current shortfall being $900,000.
Remove the CLEC’s training wheels
Fed up with the Cowichan Lake Education Center’s annual deficit, a few Town of Lake Cowichan elected officials discussed discontinuing taxpayers’ funding of the centre.
“I’ve had enough about this, that, and the other thing,” councillor Bob Day said.
“It has to stop costing the taxpayers. That money can far better help our community.”
Councillors Franklin Hornbrook and Jayne Ingram both voiced their approval, suggesting the Cowichan Lake Education Centre (CLEC) project a deficit of zero in 2011.
Early estimates, which the town’s chief administrative officer Joseph Fernandez said are “pretty close” to the final numbers, have the CLEC netting a $61,786 deficit in 2010, which is $36,786 more than the budgeted deficit of $25,000.
The 2011 deficit brought forth for consideration has been $52,190.
One item CLEC manager Dalton Smith has cited as questionable in the past includes $12,000 for road maintenance in 2011, which is odd, as he feels it should be part of the Public Works budget.
Another item Smith has contested is $23,190 for administrative costs, which Day feels doesn’t deserve contention, as all businesses must factor in administrative costs.
The CLEC is owned by the Town of Lake Cowichan, with its annual deficit funded by the town’s taxpayers.
The Town of Lake Cowichan’s next budget meeting will be announced during the Town of Lake Cowichan’s Tuesday, March 1, committee meetings. Like all other budget meetings, it will be open to the public.
During the next budget meeting, the Sewage Treatment Plant upgrades will be further flushed out, including how and when the town will deal with the requirement.
A working figure may also be attached to the South Shore Road project during this next meeting.
A representative from the Cowichan Lake Education Centre will be asked to attend, in order to justify a few proposals, as well the potential of the hear out the elimination of a deficit. Lake Cowichan Fire Department chief Doug Knott will also be invited, to justify some fire department expenditures.
“It’s only fair that they’re here when we discuss their items,” mayor Ross Forrest said.
With the town’s budget skyrocketing thus far in discussions, with many additional items added, the tightening of certain areas will also be discussed, including the possible elimination of the proposed spray park.