Nakusp council, December 12: Fees and charges to rise

Diversification needed

A warning from staff about a 13% budget increase for next year (see ‘Nakusp preliminary budget outlines financial pressures facing all municipalities’ elsewhere in this issue) prompted Mayor Tom Zeleznik to highlight how important it is to bring new industry to the village.

In his December Mayor’s Report, Zeleznik pointed out how dependent the Village is on taxes from property owners, not business.

“73% of our tax base comes from residents (taxpayers) while small business and industry make up the rest,” he noted, compared to other communities, where homeowners pay 60% or less of the tax burden and business/industry covers 40%. “Our main goal should be to continue to advocate for more types of industry and businesses to help offset this disparity in our tax base.”

Zeleznik said forestry should be an area the community works at developing.

“It has become very apparent we require a vision for a brighter future for forestry communities based on a newfound maturity, focused on value-added rather than volume as the resource for demand is shrinking,” he wrote. “Nakusp needs to look at examples of forestry value-added successes that are in our very own backyard…”

Fees and charges rising

It’s not only property taxes that will be going up next year. The fees and charges council sets for use of its facilities or providing services are also going up to reflect both inflation, and to recover closer to the real costs of providing those services.

The Fees and Charges Bylaw was given three readings and has to be adopted in January to ensure the increases are reflected in annual sewer and water bills that are sent out a month later.

Here’s a summary of increases in the new bylaw.

A soak at the hot springs will go up 9-10%. Staying at the chalets will go up 6-7%, while camping at the facility is increasing 4-7%.

Waste collection fees are going up 50 cents/bag, and 10% for non-resident receptacles. RDCK tipping fees are going up 10%.

Municipal campground fees are going up 4-6%, with staff noting that demand is strong and the opportunity exists to increase revenues further.

The Village is cutting the number of business licence categories in half, and increasing the most common rate from $100 to $125. That’s to cover increased admin costs and fire inspection fees. Early payment can save a business $25, late payment will cost an extra $50.

Sewer service rates are rising 5% overall. However, the village is standardizing rates, eliminating one service zone that paid less. That means homeowners in the former Area 1 will see an increase of up to 12%. That affects about 136 properties in town. Connection fees are also going up, with a deposit of $3,000 to cover whatever the actual cost of installation was.

Water rates are also going up 5%, while water shut off, water turn on, and water locate rates are also rising. Connection fees, like for sewer, are rising to a $3,000 deposit and the homeowner will be billed for actual cost.

Docking your boat for the summer at the marina is also going up. Marina slip rental rates are being added to the bylaw, and rising by $50/year. The Village just recently took over the marina from a community group, which didn’t keep its fees up with costs. The $50 only begins to cover the increases that are really necessary to properly plan the facility’s future maintenance, staff said.

It’s going to cost more to use Village rec facilities. “Rates have not increased since 2011 so there is an increase across the board,” says a staff report. The sports complex is heavily subsidized by taxation and rates are not meant to cover the cost of operating.

Development application fees are increasing to ensure they cover the cost of staff time and associated expenses.

Water for airport lands

The Village will be applying to a provincial infrastructure program for funding to lay a waterline to the community airstrip.

The Village has identified the rudimentary airstrip as a possible source of economic growth for the community, but it’s hampered by a lack of water and sewer. The Village’s network comes up just short of the airport lands. A study is necessary “to determine the cost and best possible layout of new services to maximize the value of any expansion” says a staff report.

The study is expected to cost $25,000, but that would be completely covered by the provincial grant.

Wildfire preparation

The Village is going to take advantage of another 100%-funded program to help support its fire services to combat wildfires.

The Columbia Basin Trust’s Small Community Wildfire Readiness Support program helps local firefighters improve their abilities and response in preparation for a wildland-urban interface fire. Through the acquisition of equipment, delivery of training, and advanced evacuation planning, this project will increase the village’s resiliency to the impacts of wildfire.

Council approved staff to apply for up to $70,000.

John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice