Squamish boat launch uncertain

Latest budget talks also forecast tax revenue increase between 3.6 to 6 per cent

Squamish residents will likely have to do the heavy lifting themselves if they want a new boat launch, judging from the recent council discussions.

On Mar. 12, municipal council was once again reviewing its proposed 2019 budget, which envisions a $1.77-million increase in spending compared with 2018, according to latest estimates.

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Tax revenue would need to rise by 6.4 per cent as a result, but new tax dollars from projected growth could offset the costs, which may drop the required increase down as low as 3.6 per cent.

These rates don’t translate directly into property tax rates, as the municipality has yet to figure out how much to charge each type of property.

This is not the first proposed tax increase from the District.

In 2018, this estimate was six per cent.

At draft budget discussions in 2017, the District forecast an increase between 5 and 7.7 per cent in their required revenue.

Bringing it back to a boat launch, council recognized there were challenges regarding the matter.

“I understand from the conversations around the boat launch that they’re constrained with limited suitable land that we control as a municipality — or at least that we control directly,” said Coun. Chris Pettingill.

Pettingill asked if it would be possible for the District to help out any grassroots community organizations willing to pony up the cash and land for the launch.

Chief administrative officer Linda Glenday said it would challenging for a municipal staffer to take a leadership role on this given the current 2019 workload.

However, if the District wasn’t taking the lead but just providing information as support, it could be something staff could look into, she said.

“If it was more a volunteer group that decided to fundraise and the District provided in-kind information that we needed in terms of the interface with the District, then it might be possible — I don’t want to commit to that on the fly, but it’s certainly something we can look at,” Glenday said.

Staff also revealed Brennan Park is in need of a new ammonia condenser.

“The ammonia condenser motor stopped — and as I‘m sure we’re all aware — ammonia is a bit of an issue with respect to safety,” said financial analyst Rolland Russell. “We need to be sure that this motor is replaced in a timely manner.”

The price tag for the replacement is expected to be $10,500. Staff plan to put it into service during the summer, which is during the rink’s normal shutdown.

Russell later told The Chief that the motor is a spare, and there isn’t any danger to the public.

Another highlight from the meeting revolved around a mistakenly signed contract.

This was for the Official Community Plan monitoring tool.

District staff prematurely signed a three-year contract with Townfolio, a company that provides data to cities, that would require $30,000 for the contract costs and staff time. However, a $5,000 grant partially offsets the bill.

Under the agreement, the company would let municipal staff access its data tracking tools.

“Staff got quite excited about the project and when they presented it to [the District’s senior management.] Our, ‘Yes go forward with this project, we will include it in the budget,’ was interpreted as, ‘Go forward with the project,’” said Glenday.

“So it was a staff mistake. So we are doing a mea culpa here that we have been committed to this three-year contract.”

Normally, this item would’ve had to pass through the budgeting process with the approval of council.

Also, a large carryover from 2018 was noted by Coun. Jenna Stoner.

About $18.3 million from last year’s capital budget has been carried over into this year’s spreadsheet, bringing the total tally for the 2019 capital plan to about $43 million.

Carryovers happen when money budgeted for the previous year doesn’t get spent. This could be because projects don’t get started or because money is set aside for a project that doesn’t have a firm start date.

“I appreciate that there’s ebb and flow of work and that things happen and sometimes there’s multi-year projects — there’s lots going on,” said Coun. Jenna Stoner.

“Having a $43-million capital fund budget going into 2019 raises flags for me, and I think it begs a broader discussion around capacity...I will just state I don’t want to see that level of carryover from 2019 to 2020.”

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