2019 budget deliberations: Big water projects proposed

2019 budget deliberations are ongoing in the City of North Battleford, and explanations for the proposed tax increases are coming to light.

Two important changes in the 2018 budget compared to the 2019 budget are land sales and investment revenue. In 2018, land sales was budgeted to bring in $1.2 million, while it only brought in approximately $111,000 last year.

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Land sales revenue in 2019 is budgeted at $3,000. The budget document attributes the decrease to market conditions.

2018’s budget also saw a decrease in revenue from the city’s bank investments: a budgeted $566,850 turned out to be an actual $267,000. The 2019 budget sets investment income at approximately $312,000.

Finance director Steve Brown told council an advisor said to decrease withdrawing or “the investment income will start to dry up.”

Fire and Protective Services

A proposed expenditure increase, Fire Chief Trevor Brice said, is due to paid on-call firefighters not having a pay increase for nine years.

A proposed raise wouldn’t put the firefighters at the top of the scale “but relatively reflected” in comparison, Brice said, to other fire departments in the province.

Fire services also intends to buy new breathing equipment (Brice said its current stock is outdated), and a heavy-duty washing machine designed to eliminate carcinogens from materials. Research has shown cancer can cause death among career firefighters, and the new machine has a decontamination process.

Community Safety Officer Ross MacAngus said $89,000 is budgeted to come in from police fines and fees, which includes dog and cat licenses, along with traffic and parking tickets. MacAngus said the city receives a percentage of traffic ticket money, while retaining 100 per cent of parking ticket fees.

MacAngus said to date, 2,681 residential parking tickets have been issued. Parking tickets issued downtown are at 176, and have increased since community safety officers have patrolled more.

On another note, grants make up an overwhelming majority of the total  $1.3 million of Policing Services revenue. Fifty-nine full-time members work out of the Battlefords RCMP detachment. The city contracts for 36 RCMP member positions and nine support staff, while 23 full-time members are funded by the provincial government or under community tripartite agreements, the budget states.

UPAR

No UPAR increase is proposed, for the third year in a row.

According to the budget, UPAR work is expected to “include a scope of work” similar to last year, and expects to bring in a total of about $3.3 million and to spend most of it this year.

Aging infrastructure will continue to be a significant spend over the years. Depending on pipe type, the life expectancy of underground water and sewer pipes is 50 to 100 years old. According to the budget document, the city currently has approximately 19 km of mains older than 100 years, and approximately 60 km reaching 60 years of age over the next 10 years.

Water

A big proposed expenditure from water utility services is automatic metering infrastructure. The devices record data of water usage. Director of Utility Services Stewart Schafer said the meters are meant to be less invasive than older units and the city could begin monthly water billing.

The meters would also notify residents of small drips before they lead to abnormally large bills.

City officials hope to phase units in over some years. The first expenditure this year would be approximately $500,000, with the total project costing around $3 million.

City Manager Randy Patrick said water meters have a 20-year life, and many “have to be replaced at some point anyway.”

According to city officials, water meters slow down and, if they’re old, don’t record water accurately.

Money this year is also budgeted to go toward a new sanitary sewer main, a total $13 million project.

According to a recent report, the existing sanitary sewer main is running close to capacity. Schafer added the city can’t expand without such a project.

The funding plan, according to city officials, is for the municipality to pay for a third of the project, the province a third and the federal government a third. The application process for funding toward such a project is long, as many other municipalities are applying for funding.

© Copyright 2018 Battlefords News Optimist

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