Eliminating hanging flower baskets ($85,550) and reducing the subsidy toward the Suwilaawks Community School’s after-school recreation programs ($12,000) has helped reduce a first proposed eight per cent property tax hike to 7.4 per cent in a first pass-through of the City of Terrace’s budget plan for 2020.
But plans to hire more city staffers, hire two more firefighters and one RCMP officer remain in place as city council held its first budget planning session Dec. 17.
“As we all know the community is facing a number of challenges that is requiring us to respond by providing more resources in some areas of our operations to ensure adequate service levels can be maintained,” says Heather Avison, chief administrative officer.
The additional city staffing list includes someone to aid Avison for the next two years in gathering data and information regarding potential impacts from regional economic development and, specifically, to continue the city’s efforts in pressing the province and LNG Canada for money to deal with the impacts of the latter’s project on city services.
“We’re definitely being impacted and we need to have a really good understanding of what is going on, and the time to spend with these different agencies and stakeholders,” Avison says.
Other city staffing requests include $41,488 for a part-time bylaw admin clerk, adjustments for a new engineering manager position at public works, along with expected increases in project management costs at the Skeena Industrial Development Park (SIDP), $89,829 for a new parks supervisor position, $121,884 to hire an additional full-time bylaw officer and a pilot project for 2020 for two additional summer seasonal bylaw officers to focus on the downtown area.
The fire department’s two additional firefighters would cost $280,904 to absorb an additional workload, including building fire-safety inspections.
The additional staffing costs amount to $770,000, or approximately three-quarters of the proposed tax increase with the rest going to cover increased operational costs.
So far, the city is saying the tax increase amounts to $120 a year for the average city residential taxpayer.
In all, the proposed city budget would rise from $20.4 million this year to $21.9 million next year, with 20 per cent going toward policing costs.
Other increases include an additional $54,000 because of a new bus from B.C. Transit. The public library is getting a two per cent bump.
The capital project budget of $5.6 million for 2020 includes $1 million to reconstruct Munroe St. between Straume and McConnell Ave. in the Horseshoe past Caledonia Secondary School, a project that will add bike lanes, $40,000 for new playground equipment for either the Agar or Rotary park playgrounds, $20,000 for bear-proof closed garbage receptacles, and $30,000 for the expansion of the female changing rooms at the Terrace RCMP detachment.
Northern Capital Planning Grant
The city also allocated a majority of their $8.19 million Northern Capital and Planning Grant received from the province last February to fund several capital projects from 2020 to 2024, with $2.97 million remaining in reserves. Below is a list of projects where the money has been allocated:
- Replacement of City Hall’s 60-year old boiler – $150,000
- Downtown boulevard enhancements of the 4600 block of Lazelle Avenue – $50,000
- Replacing the Fire Department’s Jaws of Life (Hydraulic Extrication) – $86,366
- Lanfear Hill study and concept design – $150,000
- Development cost charges (DCC) Bylaw Development consultant – $50,000
- The Terrace Sportsplex Arena refrigeration plant replacement (2021)- $400,000
- Reconstruction of 4600 block of Scott Avenue (2021) – $650,000
- Reconstruction of Graham Avenue from Eby Street to Kenney Street (2023) – $1.2 million
- Reconstruction of Lakelse Avenue from Emerson Street to Kalum Street (2024) – $500,000
New rescue truck
LNG Canada is stepping in with $500,000 to replace the fire department’s rescue truck which is nearly 20 years old. The remaining $265,000 will come from the department’s vehicle replacement fund.
“Terrace Fire Department will provide highway rescue north, south, east and west, with a big portion of that between Terrace and Kitimat,” says John Klie, Terrace fire chief, noting increased traffic on Hwy37.
“We’re very fortunate that LNG came on board and was a major sponsor of this rescue truck.”
Part of increase in policing costs, $45,000, was because prisoners from Kitimat and Prince Rupert were housed in Terrace cells while cell blocks in those municipalities were being retrofitted.
“During that time we took on their prisoners, so that was a big part of it,” says Terrace RCMP inspector Jayson Lucash.
The City of Terrace’s proposed 2020 budget would see a 7.4 per cent increase in utility fees for water and sewer systems. This would also mean a three per cent increase to user fees year over year through to 2024.
This is the first time in more than 15 years that the city has proposed an increase in user fees for both water and sewer services, the city says. No increases were added to the frontage taxes, which is a tax charged to provide for the capital infrastructure of water and sewer systems, pending a review of the city’s fee structure in 2020.
“The fees have been far too low for far too long,” says Lori Greenlaw, director of finance.
Without the increase, capital projects listed for the water and sewer systems over the next five years would not be possible, Greenlaw adds.
Want to let city council know your thoughts on the proposed budget? The city is asking residents to submit comment and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org, and make sure to include a name and address for public record.
The City of Terrace will also be hosting a public consultation meeting on Thursday, January 16 at 7 p.m. at the Terrace Sportsplex.