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Village of Nakusp showcases state of finances ahead of preparing 2014 budget
As the Village of Nakusp sets to begin its budget deliberations with a special council meeting on Thursday, mayor Karen Hamling has a few things on her mind.
“We should finish up all our projects this year, which will make me very happy,” she told me at the village’s financial open house last week. “I’d like to see us concentrate on the hot springs. I think that’s a really positive move for the community.”
And she wants to keep tax increases at a minimum.
“The one thing, because of the community being the way it is with jobs, we don’t want to be doing huge tax hikes because people can’t afford them,” she said. “We need to accomplish what we can without burdening the tax payer.”
Nakusp council will be receiving their first look at the budget from staff on Thursday, Feb. 13. It will likely be a status quo budget – what’s needed to maintain current service levels – along with wish lists of bigger projects from department heads.
It will also incorporate the feedback received at the open house, where village staff set up a series of displays showing how money is collected and spent across all of the village’s departments. The open house was a chance for the public to see what the village is doing, how tax payer money is being spent and to provide comments on areas people think should be priorities.
Robert Richards, the village’s Chief Financial Officer walked me through the displays, going over the results of the past year. The dollar figures on display were the unaudited figures from 2013.
Let’s start with the revenue. The village collected $888,248 in taxes last year and about $390,000 in revenue from other sources. Significantly, Nakusp received $2.1 million in transfers from other levels of government, which helped pay for several big capital projects like the Kuskanax foot bridge, a new cover for the sewer lagoon and the water and sewer treatment plants.
Without dwelling too much on numbers (you can view the village’s financial information by reading this story online), here’s some of what Richards pointed out:
— The village transferred $350,000 from the water fund to the sewer fund to help pay for capital projects. Both systems saw new treatment plants installed and the sewage lagoon has a new cover, which should help reduce costs. Still, the operating costs of the new systems are an unknown. “We have a budget for 2014 we hope is conservative, but until we have some operating data under our belts to be able to say a typical season is X, it’s somewhat – I don’t want to say guess, because that sounds bad – it’s still a budget and it’s a preliminary budget because they’re all new, all the plants are new,” said Richards.
— Public works had a $343,353 budget last year, not including major capital projects. That went to everything from road resurfacing to brush cutting to street cleaning and snow removal. Garbage fees actually turned a $2,000 profit for the village.
— It costs the parks & recreation department $326,910 to run the village’s sporting facilities. Of that, $250,000 was paid for by the regional district, $70,000 was collected in user fees and the rest was subsidized by tax payers. Another $200,000 was spent to upkeep the village’s parks, beach and waterfront walkway. The campground was a revenue generator for the village.
— The hot springs turned an operating profit, but that turned into a loss when $60,000 in debt servicing was factored in. $185,000 was borrowed to purchase the Cedar Chalets, which generated $6,000 in profits for the village. The goal is to have both the hot springs and chalets be self-sustaining.
— Aside from capital expenditures, the administration department was the biggest expense for the village, with $613,000 going to pay for council, staff and a whole bunch of other expenses like insurance, office supplies and legal fees.
— As has been noted, the village made big infrastructure investments last year, much of which was paid for by other levels of government. On the infrastructure side, while big upgrades were made to the water and sewer treatment plants, there is now a need to look at what’s in the ground. The village will be starting a leak detection program to see what pipes need to be replaced. However, the village’s infrastructure is in good shape compared to most other Canadian municipalities, said Chief Administrative Officer Linda Tynan. “We’ve been doing replacement but we are definitely experiencing water leaks and other things now than we have,” she said. “We definitely have replacement that needs to be done. We’re expecting it to become more of a problem.”
— The village has $1.3 million built up in reserves. The equipment reserve fund is self-sustaining, said Richards, but the village will be taking a look at other reserve funds to see how well they meet the village’s needs.
That’s the state of the villages finances. The first look at where Nakusp will be going in 2014 will be presented to council on Thursday, Feb. 13, at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers.