The Central Coast Regional District board of directors met on December 11, 2013 to discuss the introduction of the budget for 2014 and beyond. Preliminary indications are that two services provided by the regional district to residents of electoral areas C, D, & E (the Bella Coola Valley) are projected to attract increased expenditures: the Thorsen Creek Waste and Recycling Centre and the Centennial Swimming Pool.
The Pool Commission is looking to improve disability access, provide power to the original building, renovate the area between the original building and the newer structure, install a new sand filter unit and provide on-demand hot water to the shower/change rooms. Ongoing improvements include repairs to the floors and drains and the replacement of plywood walls to prevent water damage. Operational expenses are also anticipated to increase due to a longer operating season (labour, fuel, hydro and chemical supplies), but those additional expenses will be offset somewhat by increased revenue from user fees and pool rentals.
The Thorsen Creek Waste and Recycling Centre will continue to be challenged financially in order to fulfill regulatory obligations and to facilitate reconfiguration and expansion of the site. New recycling initiatives, designed to intercept municipal waste and extend the life of the landfill site, will also come at a cost. These costs are expected to be recouped in future years through savings associated with minimizing the landfill footprint, a reduction in covering costs, and lower daily operating costs. Expenses stemming from regulatory requirements for Freon removal from appliances, vehicle disposal, and the transport of mixed metals out of the valley continue to escalate.
Environmental legislation places an obligation on a landfill operator to undertake certain prescribed closure activities on portions of the landfill that become filled to capacity. Post-closure obligations then continue for a period of 25 years following closure of each area. Closure costs, while not specifically evaluated at this point, are significant and will require additional revenue to be set aside on an annual basis to provide the future financial resources to fulfill these obligations.
Directors reflected on tax levy targets in conjunction with goal setting for 2014. A need was expressed for an improved method of ensuring integration of the regional district’s asset management and strategic planning processes and the concept of levying a percentage tax to provide for future asset replacement was discussed. The next presentation of the financial plan will include a one percent levy for the express purpose of responsibly providing asset replacement for all applicable assets owned by the regional district, including the airports, swimming pool, town site water system, waste and recycling centre, administration building, etc.
To accommodate additional costs associated with inflation (2%), future asset replacement (1%) and general improvements to service delivery noted above (3%), the board anticipates further discussing a tax increase of approximately six percent over 2013 levels to the regional district portion of property taxes at the board meeting in February 2014. The increase will be mitigated where possible by reducing costs in areas that will not affect service delivery.
The initial budget presentation is in line with the board’s four stated priorities: solid waste management, communications and engagement planning, Shearwater/Denny Island water system and strategic planning for implementation commencing in 2015.