What does the city budget for next year mean for me?
The City of Salmon Arm operates on a $32 million dollar budget. Our biggest budgets are for protective services, $5.9 million, and Transportation Services, $5.6 million. Protective services is essentially policing and fire protection. Policing accounting for $4.1 million of this budget.
Transportation is the most complicated budget, encompassing all road, drainage, sidewalk and curb and gutter works. With 210 kilometres of road to maintain, and additional sections added each year, it takes substantial resources to keep up to an acceptable standard.
The tax increase for 2020 is 2.52 per cent. Most of this increase is in our roads and policing budgets. Council chose to increase the maintenance of our transportation network, upgrading road surfaces, adding and maintaining new sidewalks and increasing our roadside weed control and drainage budgets.
We are requesting the addition of one new RCMP officer. The last time the municipal RCMP force increased was in 2009. With a growing population and increased policing standards being passed down by the province, it was necessary to add a member to ensure our level of safety is maintained.
Water and sewer utilities must balance. That is, their budgets are separate from the regular operating budget. After holding the line on sewer and water rates in 2018, we had to increase them in 2019 by 1.5 per cent, and 2 per cent in 2020. That equates to approximately a $5 increase for each utility in 2020, per average household. The annual cost to a residential user hooked up to sewer is $315 per year, and $281 for water.
The city has two essential capital items planned for 2020. The first is new chillers for Shaw Centre. With tightened safety regulations due to the Fernie incident, our 20-year-old ice making equipment had to be upgraded. The bill is estimated to be $500,000. The second is a new ladder fire truck. Our current ladder truck will be 24 years old, and with higher buildings and the prospect of increased fire insurance rates in our community, we need to add a new one to our fleet. The cost is estimated to be $1.5 million.
Fortunately, the city plans ahead for these items. With the ladder truck, we have been building a reserve over the last 25 years, so no borrowing or tax increase is needed for this purchase. While $65,000 of the cost of the chillers came from general revenue, the remainder, $435,000, came from our major maintenance and operating reserves.
The city is in a strong financial position. This is mostly due to a succession of chief financial officers who wisely guide council to manage the city’s assets prudently, while establishing reserves over time, so the current taxpayer does not have to shoulder the full extent of large purchases.
Staff and council work hard to try and balance the needs with what we as taxpayers can afford.