The draft 2023 budget emphasizes big spending for essential services, such as diking, a new public works facility, wastewater plant upgrades and the Tantalus firehall replacement.
Those are the most expensive line items that the municipality presents in its online draft budget tool.
In 2023, each item is projected to respectively cost $11.6 million, $10 million, $8.5 million and $8 million. These items, among other things, were subject to discussion during the District’s open house for next year’s budget. The event was held in Brennan Park Recreation Centre on Nov. 29. Members of the public were invited to provide feedback on the proposed financial plan.
Regarding the biggest line item, David Roulston, the manager of municipal infrastructure, said that a sea dike at Xwu´nekw Park is necessary to keep the downtown core from flooding. That risk will only increase as sea levels rise.
Looking at the overall picture, the municipality’s chief financial officer, Heather Boxrud, said that the District is projecting it will spend about $65 million in operational costs. An additional $73 million is being spent on capital.
Altogether, that makes for a grand total of about $138 million being spent for 2023.
In a news release, the District said this would result in a $139 increase to the average 2022 residential assessment of $1.02 million.
In the commercial world, this would translate to a roughly $454 increase to the average 2022 business assessment of $1.3 million.
The release said the municipality needs an additional 5.9% increase in property tax revenue to pay the bills next year. That factors in things such as non-market growth, which is the increase in property values due to activities such as new construction.
The budget is being paid for by a combination of property taxes, reserves, grants, developer cost charges, and community amenity contributions, among other things. Property taxes fund about 40% of the municipality’s annual budget.
“I think one of the things that are important with this budget is our ongoing investment in our facilities,” Mayor Armand Hurford told The Squamish Chief at the event.
Aside from the public works facility and fire hall, he also noted the first wave of Brennan Park upgrades is in the budget. The federal government gave $11.7 million in grant money to help with the bills, though the municipality is expected to pay a portion as well. The municipality’s 2023 draft budget allocates $6 million in spending via developer cost charges and the town’s reserves.
Coun. Jenna Stoner noted that in addition to spending on critical facilities, there was another factor at play.
“What [also is] driving some of the increases in the budget are really inflationary pressures and some non-discretionary changes in terms of adjustments to service level changes,” Stoner said.
Senior financial analyst Rolland Russell noted the use of community amenity contributions, or CACs. This is money that developers give during rezoning applications that typically pay for recreational or artistic projects.
“I think one of the big themes this year is the use of developer funding,” said Russell. “We did pivot this year to use a large amount of the CACs to fund projects.”
He said there previously wasn’t enough money in the CAC pool to pay for bigger projects.
About $8.2 million in CAC funds is going to completely fund some crowd-pleasers, such as a playground and splash park at Brennan Park, a fenced dog park at Brennan Park, a park at No Name Road, new pickleball courts, and new tennis courts at Brennan Park.
Woodfibre LNG and FortisBC indirectly made their way into the budget as well.
The District is allocating $470,000 for RCMP services in relation to the two projects.
The money is being earmarked for police personnel and equipment that may be needed in connection with those ventures.
“It’s a placeholder for personnel and material that we are projecting that the RCMP is going to need to deal with Woodfibre and Fortis,” said Gary Buxton, the municipality’s general manager of community planning and infrastructure.
“It’s not a protest-related cost. It’s just to deal with the increased policing costs.”
He said that both companies would have their own security, but the influx of workers in the area may require more resources if there are more police incidents.
“If it’s a dispute at work [between] two employees, their security can deal with that,” said Buxton. “If it develops into a fistfight and it’s an assault, then, of course, the RCMP have to attend to that. We know that there’s going to be more policing. So that’s why we need that placeholder in there.”