Hello, Bowen Island. I’m here with an update on the Wastewater Treatment Plant Phase I upgrades and the financing plan that we need to pay for that work, and the 2022 budget that’s currently in development.
Since my last letter of March 18, we solidified the funding strategy for the Phase I upgrades. We need to withdraw $1,640,000 from our General Reserve funds to proceed with the work as soon as possible. $718,677 of this will be paid back into the account by the users within the Snug Cove Sewer System through a combination of user fees and parcel taxes over the next seven years. The remaining $921,323, or 56%, is the cost that all island taxpayers will share through the use of reserves.
The rationale for this is that several projects in the Cove hold island-wide significance for our community – the lands sold for the rental apartments added to increased rental housing stock on the island, something that has been identified as a strategic priority for years. The Foxglove properties are linked to Snug Cove House Society to provide supportive seniors housing. And the Library and Fire Hall are Municipal facilities providing services to the entire island.
There’s been a lot of misinformation and speculation on social media about the use of municipal funds to pay for this project. The costs of the project that are deemed to benefit the Snug Cove sewer users will be paid for through a parcel tax on properties connected to the sewer. The costs of the project that are deemed to benefit Island-wide taxpayers will be paid for using general reserves. I know that this is an unpopular decision and we are taking the heat for it. But we are doing what must be done with this infrastructure to support current and future levels of wastewater services.
Now onto the budget. It has been a whirlwind of activity over the past weeks for our finance department in finalizing the 2021 audit and developing the 2022 budget. Normally, we would prefer to have started the budget back in the fall of 2021 and held a longer period for public consultation. But due to staffing vacancies, this year it has been a compressed timeline to have this work completed by the May 15th deadline.
The first draft of the budget proposed a Municipal tax increase of $636,900, or 10.4% over 2021. I know that it’s shocking to see a tax increase percentage in the double digits. This is mostly due to our obligations under our collective agreement, rising costs of insurance, fuel and supplies, additional contributions to reserves to fund capital projects and repayment of borrowed money. This would have resulted in the average assessed property paying about $287 more this year.
With the feedback we received through the public consultation process, we asked staff to re-examine their budgets and seek additional savings to reduce the overall impact to taxpayers. Department by department, we cut back our operational expenses and adjusted revenue estimates until we came to a leaner property tax increase of 7.8% for 2022. I encourage you to read the staff report or watch the video from our Special Council meeting on May 2 to get all of the details of the financial plan.
Thanks for reading this edition of Gary’s Corner. I’ll take this opportunity to encourage you to keep up with your local government’s news by subscribing to our e-newsletter – this way you can get the facts directly from the source.
Mayor Gary Ander