Muni Morsels: 6.7 per cent property tax increase and other budget details

The proposed budget passed first second and third readings Monday evening.

Council passed first, second and third readings of Bowen’s $16.8 million 2019 budget (in BIM-speak the five year financial plan) Monday evening. 

The budget proposes a property tax increase of 6.7 per cent. This is lower than last year’s 8.1 per cent increase. 

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This means that for the average Bowen home of just over a million dollars, property taxes will go up by about $150. 

Of the tax increase, 5.2 per cent is for municipal operations while 1.5 per cent is for infrastructure reserves (capital expenses). The reserve amount rose at the same rate as last year (1.5 per cent) while the municipal operations went down (from 6.6 per cent last year). 

The budget booklet says that the tax increase has several culprits. For one thing, debt servicing –the $2 million debt from the Community Lands purchase is going from temporary to long-term debt, which means the 2018 cost doubles. As well, staff cost-of-living raises and changes in contracts for rent, insurance, information technology and more added to the increase. The budget also notes that the steady 1.5 per cent asset reserve rise is municipal policy, so that the muni may have the money to fix and build infrastructure. This rate of increase could change in coming years, once the municipality completes an asset management study, outlining infrastructure needs over coming decades. 

Included in the five-year plan is projected spending for major projects over the next few years, including the fire hall, community centre and Cove Bay water treatment plant. Chief financial officer Raj Hayre said at the council meeting that the heavy spending on infrastructure tapers out by 2022-23. 

There will also be a $126 garbage and waste tax increase, which the report says is due to transportation costs, tipping fees and more organic waste and recycling coming through the system. This raises the flat-rate tax to $426.

The budget says that Bowen Waste had a five-year fixed-rate contract that ended in December. In that time, Bowen Waste could only adjust for inflation while their costs rose by about 15 per cent a year because of tipping fees and more green waste and recycling. This caused a sharp jump when the contract ended. 

Other tidbits (from the significant to the merely interesting):

To compensate for the disappearance of a non-taxable stipend, council compensation rose. The mayor now makes $30,000 a year while councillors make $15,000. The budget says that their compensations hadn’t been adjusted in many years and that it’s in the 60th percentile of comparable municipalities.

There are no new tax-funded positions budgeted (so far) in 2019. 

Engine 32 replacement is budgeted for $100,000 while the replacement of Engine 31 (five times more expensive than its counterpart) has been pushed back until the new fire chief can give a report to council (so could be this year, could be next.) 

There’s a $15,000 increase in the parks and environment budget for removing logs from beaches (for access reasons) and for maintaining park grounds. 

Snug Cove and Mt. Gardner docks’ assessed values have gone up and so have their insurance premiums. 

A Cardena Road round about, sidewalk and bus drop is budgeted for $475,000 in 2019 – though half is that is funded through a grant.

There’s $500,000 for the new firehall in the budget, the first half-million of $3 million borrowing authorized in the 2017 referendum. 

And the muni has $130,000 for a skid-steer (it’s like a Bobcat) broom, bucket and shoulder attachment in the budget. Council heard that the shoulder attachment should pay itself off within a few years. 

Having gone through consultations over the past month (it was posted online in February), the budget passed first three readings unanimously (though it still needs to pass through adoption). See for the full report. 


Other briefs from the March 25 council meeting: 

–Application fees for development permits, temporary use permits, rezonings, official community plan amendments, subdivisions and the like could soon be rising. Council heard Monday that the fee schedule hadn’t changed since 2000 and was not only out of synch with other municipalities but the actual costs in staff time. It unanimously passed first reading of a fee schedule change that sees jumps of between $100 and $400.

– Council decided against authorizing a speed bump on Carter Road in front of the Bowen Children’s Centre. Council has received many letters from concerned parents about the speed of cars as children regularly cross the road. Manager of public works, Bob Robinson noted that there’s a parking lot below the Children’s Centre for parents to use. Council said it would invite BCC representatives to council to discuss concerns. 

–Mayor Gary Ander said that the Mayor’s Standing Committee on the Community Lands had a meeting with Bowen Island Resilient Community Housing, Snug Cove House, Bowen Court and the Health Centre Foundation. He said that they discussed having an aging community theme in the Miller Road area. He said that the committee is hoping to have the Lot 3 decisions wrapped up by the end of April. 

–Trustees Sue Ellen Fast and Michael Kaile noted that they’d attended last week’s Islands Trust meeting on Gabriola. Kaile said he was the only one to vote against its budget. 

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