Terrace city staff have changed and added a few items to their wish list for the 2019 budget, including a part-time bylaw officer, new laundry facilities for the fire department, and road paving projects.
City council and department heads met April 9 to discuss a finalized version of the provisional budget, first drafted last December.
With these new additions, the city is spending approximately $24.4 million, less than the $27.7 million allocated last year but with more money put towards operating expenses rather than capital projects. City revenue was also down from $25.6 million in 2018 to $22.7 million in 2019.
The city’s director of finance Lori Greenlaw was unable to comment on some specific budget line items before press time.
Below is a summary of what was discussed:
Part-time bylaw officer, among new items
Development services allocated $32,094 for a pilot program to hire a seasonal part-time junior bylaw officer from May until the end of August to relieve some of the more mundane calls from the city’s full-time officer.
With that, $25,000 was allocated to purchase a new city pick-up truck for development services and public works to share.
The fire department was approved for a $97,713 grant to start a FireSmart and fire prevention preparedness program. This year will heavily focus on private residential areas and neighbourhoods where the risk of wildfire is the greatest. With the program, inspectors will assess properties and use funds from the grant for renovations to better safeguard homes from fire risks.
There was also $50,000 added for the fire department to purchase a new washer and dryer, and renovate the cramped laundry area. Fire chief John Klie says firefighters have been using the local dry cleaner since January when their old machine broke down.
“A couple fires ago we were stuck with dirty gear for the weekend because it wasn’t open,” says Klie. “Cleaning gear has become one of the top priorities for trying to prevent cancer for firefighters.”
As part of the city’s involvement in a larger northern B.C. network, $10,000 was added for two electronic vehicle charging stations. The $25,000 community childcare provincial grant was also included.
The Skeena Industrial Development Park Investment Attraction Project also saw $54,400 in grant money to hire a consultant to create a marketing strategy for the park’s build out.
Altogether, provincial grants made up $208,034 of the city’s revenue.
Leisure services added $10,000 for pool administrative staff wages to keep the pool open two hours longer on the weekends, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
“We do recognize our receptionists have been very busy so we did have to increase their hours,” says Carmen Didier, director of leisure services.
Drainage, irrigation and weed concerns at Christy Park soccer fields resulted in a $25,000 project to hire a consultant for an assessment and long-term plan to update the fields.
The REM Lee Theatre’s new annual allocation of $12,000 was also included, along with $3,000 for emergency services.
Money added for projects
The budget for the playground replacement at Kin Park saw a $55,000 increase to complete the full $125,000 project in 2019. The city will also be receiving a donation from the Kinsmen Club of Terrace, and noted they were denied a Northern Development Initiative Trust grant for the playground’s replacement.
Six of the outhouses at Ferry Island are getting replaced by three new facilities, along with upgrades to the campground’s showers. A $20,000 increase was added.
The pool’s renovations saw a $20,000 increase to complete extra projects left uncompleted in the centre’s construction, including fans and exterior signage.
To fix repairs to the arena’s elevator, $20,000 was added to leisure services $66,000 budget. Repairs to the refrigeration system at the arena also saw an $11,500 increase, totalling $57,000.
Flower baskets in the downtown core and on the Millennium Trail got a $47,050 boost because of an increase in the cost per bucket, with eight additional baskets to be placed throughout the city. Altogether, this costs the city $85,500.
An extra $16,000 was also added for IT server upgrades for the city.
In 2020, a $100,000 project was added for a major overhaul for the city’s TerraMap website as they switch to a new service provider. The website is used heavily by developers and realtors to find out information about city properties.
Changes for road projects
A $100,000 project to pulverize and repave Westview Avenue from Munthe to Morris was added using available surplus funds. This will mainly focus on completing work on the shoulder.
A lot of paving was planned for 2019 due to the ramping up of LNG projects in 2020. Pavement overlays got a $20,000 increase from the city for Skeenaview Drive, a project now totalling $90,000.
Downtown boulevard enhancements to the 4700 and 4600 block of Lakelse Ave. saw a $30,000 increase to replace and add a few more garbage cans. Replacement of the grass strips, brick paving, outdoor furniture and trees is also included in the $120,000 project.
As for Lanfear Drive, the city was also told its application for a $10 million infrastructure grant will not be processed by the federal government until after the election this fall.
Unbudgeted surplus from staff vacancies
The city saw an increase of $400,000 in its unbudgeted surplus, from $1.2 million to around $1.7 million. The difference comes from savings in salary budgets from vacancies in multiple departments in 2019, including administration, finance, public works and development services.
Increases in revenue
The city’s general levee increased by $23,477 because of property taxes and $125,000 in non-market change, or tax money from new construction.
Property taxes also increased by around $350,000 because of the non-market change and two per cent tax increase. Property taxes alone, $13.7 million for 2019, make up 60 per cent of the city’s total operating budget of $22.7 million.
The two per cent tax increase will account for $18,000 more in revenue than 2018, bringing 2019’s total to $401,109. Money from investments increased slightly as well as cost-sharing and grant revenue budgets.
Leisure services reported an estimated $120,000 increase in revenue from public attendance at the new Terrace & District Aquatic Centre over five months.
The city accounted for a $50,000 increase for interest earnings on its investments, totalling $200,000, and an additional $25,000 in gaming revenue, totalling $700,000.
There was $208,034 allocated from provincial operation grants for capital projects.
An additional $28,325 was added to the city’s cost sharing budget with the Regional District of Kitimat-Stikine, partially because the pool budget was restored back to its full amount. Other capital projects include the fibre-link connection between city hall and the aquatic centre, and the centre’s vestibule project.
What hasn’t been factored in is the $8.19 million infrastructure grant awarded to the city by the province in February. Staff will sit down over the next couple of weeks to decide how it will be used before the budget is finalized in May.
The city is also expecting additional federal gas tax funding in the summer.
Water license fees
Under the province’s Water Sustainability Act, the city now has to pay $17,000 in royalties for groundwater extraction out of the Frank St. wells.
In 2015, the province began requiring cities using groundwater to obtain a licence and pay water fees to mirror requirements for stream water users. The city’s licence was processed late last year.
The invoice due this year covers payments from 2016 to 2018. Going forward, the city will now have to pay $6,262 per year in royalties depending on the volume of water extracted.