The Comox Strathcona Waste Management Board presented its preliminary financial plan for the next five years on Nov. 9.
CVRD manager of engineering services Marc Rutten presented the draft budget to the board as an information item. The financial plan will apply from 2018–2022. It outlines $13,416,462 in revenue and 13,026,756 in expenses related to solid waste services in 2018.
While the draft budget highlights reductions in capital spending and operational costs — as well as an expected decrease in long-term debt costs — some board members expressed concern with a 15.9 per cent increase in wage and salary expenses proposed for next year.
Courtenay directors Larry Jangula and Manno Theos both said they think the public would react negatively to such a large payroll increase.
“I was advised by the RD staff that staff number costs could come down in the future. But I cannot recall any example of staff costs going any direction but up,” said Jangula.
Rutten said the increase is due to added staff positions following the implementation of a new leachate treatment facility and the completion of the upgraded landfill cell at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre this year.
He said that due to the new infrastructure, a leachate treatment plant operator was hired, as well as an operations supervisor and a landfill attendant. Those three new positions will add $238,803 in personnel expenses for 2018.
“Salaries and wages are expected to stabilize in 2018 and stay relatively consistent over future years increasing only due to annual wage increases,” reads Rutten’s report.
In terms of revenue sources, the five-year plan suggests keeping landfill tipping fees at $130 per ton and maintaining a 2017 tax requisition of $4 million for 2018.
Rutten’s report states that budget years beyond 2018 will increase the tax requisition to $6 million but keep the tipping fees at $130 — a similar amount to other regional districts on Vancouver Island.
Rutten said the CVRD is concerned that higher tipping fees would increase the amount of illegal dumping in the Comox Valley.
“When tipping fees become too high it can result in increased illegal dumping, whereas if they are not aligned with neighbouring areas it can lead to ‘waste leakage’ from the service area,” reads his report.
Some directors disagreed, suggesting the tipping fees were too low and that increasing them would reduce the need for a tax requisition.
“I’ve never supported the tax requisition, nor will I ever,” said Discovery Islands-Mainland Inlets director Jim Abram, who called the tipping fees “ridiculously low.”
The revised 2018–22 financial plan will come back to the Comox Strathcona Waste Management Board in January 2018.