Balanced budget almost ready

New budget increases capital reserves for future projects.

The Village of Burns Lake council is expected to vote in favour of a 2013 balanced budget with increases to capital, sewer, and water reserves.  The budget will require a one per cent municipal tax increase while introducing slight increases to waste, sewer and water rates.

Originally, council was considering a five per cent municipal tax increase, plus increases to sewer and water rates.  Contained within that five per cent increase was a $100,000 increase to capital reserves, plus the buried cost of waste collection rates that had not been covering the cost of the service.

Waste collection rates have not been reflecting  costs within the municipality.  For many years, the village has been pulling $18,000  annually out of general revenues to cover the deficit.  Village staff put together a scenario where a 17 per cent waste collection rate increase across residential and commercial customers would see waste collection paying for itself.

Councillor John Illes put forward a motion to increase rates in order to cover the actual costs of waste removal, which was unanimously approved.  Mayor Luke Strimbold suggested that the overall tax bump of five per cent could be reduced now that the waste collection rates had been increased.

The rate increase will affect not only municipal residents of Burns Lake, but residents of Burns Lake living on the Burns Lake Band and the Lake Babine Nation reserves.  Councillor Illes suggested that this was fair solution.

If a waste collection deficit were left to be covered by the general budget, this would mean that the municipal tax base would be subsidizing waste collection on the reserves, which do not contribute to the municipal tax base.

With the re-worked waste collection rates, all residents of Burns Lake will pay the same waste collection rates, as well as all commercial subscribers to municipal waste collection.  Residential waste collection rates will rise $17.21 to $118.46 per year.  Commercial rates will rise $38.25 to $263.25 per year.

A 22 per cent increase to water and sewer rates amounts to an increase of $39.87 per year for residential water rates and $38.23 per year for residential sewer.  Sewer and water rates fluctuate wildly across Northwest B.C.  Terrace’s sewer rates are the low outlier at $73.80 per year, while Prince Rupert comes in at $358 per year.  Water rates range from a low of $153.60 in Terrace to a high of $458 in Telkwa.  Houston, comparable in size to Burns Lake, currently charges residential customers $230 for water and $175.50 for sewer annually.

The Burns Lake water and sewer rates, assuming this budget is passed as presented, will be $221.11 per year for residential water usage and $212.01 per year for residential sewer services.

Even with the proposed rate increases for Burns Lake, the Village will remain at the lower end of the scale of rates across the Northwest.

The one per cent increase to the municipal tax rate will allow for a $70,000 increase to capital reserves, while the increases to water and sewer will allow for an approximate $100,000 increase to water and sewer reserves.

Council will have the opportunity to fine-tune this budget on Jan. 29, 2013 before it is finally adopted.

As for waste collection, the new garbage bins will become mandatory, and subject to bylaw enforcement, in the near future.  The village will deliver the bin to your residence after you go into the village office and make the purchase.  The village is selling the bins at cost.