The District of Invermere formally adopted its next five-year financial plan (its next budget) during the most recent council meeting.
The adoption came during the Tuesday, December 10th meeting. As has been previously reported in The Echo, the plan extends from 2016 to 2020 and outlines a 1.5 per cent general tax increase starting next year, with the extra funds generated from this increase being used to help pay for the new multi-use centre. That increase will come on top of a parcel tax increase in 2016 — also to help fund the multi-use centre — that will average out to around $100 per parcel.
District staff conducted public consultation this fall, prior to adopting the budget, by sending out a survey asking how much of a tax increase residents are willing to accept if they get increased service in return. The results were mixed bag with 20 per cent of survey respondents saying their most preferred option was no tax increase (and correspondingly no increase in services); and another 20 per cent choosing a five or more per cent increase (with a correspondingly large increase in services). Almost half of the 60 per cent of respondents who fell between these two extremes (29 per cent of the total survey respondents) favoured a two per cent increase.
District saves up Community Works Fund
Council received a letter at the December 10th meeting from Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) chair Al Richmond informing the district that it will soon be getting the second half of its Gas Tax Agreement Community Works Fund payment for the April 2015-March 2016 financial year.
The second half of the payment — which comes from the federal government — will total more than $85,000.
“All municipalities receive it. It is different that the Strategic Priorities Fund, which also stems from the gas tax agreement, but which has to be applied to for specific projects. This money is distributed by the federal government through the UBCM to every municipality, but each one gets a different amount based on population,” said Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, speaking the day after the meeting.
Taft added Invermere has been in the habit of saving up the Community Works Fund money for several years until they have amassed enough to help pay for a larger project. He said council was looking into the possibility of using it to pay for some of the service work and intersection adjustment that will come with building the new multi-use centre, but wasn’t entirely sure at this point if this kind of work — or spending it directly on building the new centre — would qualify as an allowable use of the funds.
Invermere chief financial officer Karen Cote confirmed the district had stockpiled the funds starting in 2005 (when it began) until 2012, when it used $616,000 of the money to pay for the improvements at Pothole Park.
“That’s the only project the money has been spent on,” said Cote, adding the district has since continued to let the money build up and now has a total of $975,000 saved up.
The typical total annual amount Invermere receives from the fund is $171,000 or so.
Taft said the fund had began under the previous federal Liberal government and was maintained by the Conservative government. He expressed hope that the new Liberal government may further improve it in the future.