New entrance signs that reflect Sicamous’ recent rebranding are one of many things being budgeted for in the district’s new financial plan. (District of Sicamous image)

Funds assigned to water and road upgrades in 2018 budget

Small property tax increase on the way for District of Sicamous ratepayers.

An update on the District of Sicamous’ financial plan presented to council at their March 28 meeting shows big investments in the district’s water system on the horizon, with the impact on taxpayers cushioned by grant funding.

The 2018-2022 financial plan was presented by Kelly Bennett, the district’s Chief Financial Officer. Bennett said one of the guidelines for drawing up the budget was ensuring money was being put away for future capital works.

A modest increase is on the way for Sicamous taxpayers.

Bennett said the average residential home taxable assessment has gone up 11 per cent this year to approximately $285,000. The district is increasing their property tax rate by 1.35 per cent which equates to an $18.75 increase on average to the annual tax per home.

There will be no water and sewer rate increases this year.

She said the annual contributions being made to the district’s general and sewer funds are adequate while the water reserve is slightly underfunded. She added there is a five-year plan in the works to remedy that problem by bringing the annual contribution to the fund up to $300,000.

Two-million dollars has been budgeted for upgrades to the district’s wastewater system in 2018, but Bennett said the upgrades are 75 per cent funded by grants.

“This is a really key project for 2018,” Bennett said.

Bennett said the district relies heavily on grants and has successfully applied for approximately $23 million in grant funding over the past five years.

Extensions to the district’s water lines to Solsqua-Sicamous road and water line looping in the Silver Sands Road and Hillier Road area are also coming soon.

Along with the upgrades to the water system, the district’s sewer infrastructure is growing. Bennett said there have been 362 new sewer connections since 2015; over 23 per cent of the total connections to the sewer happened in that three-year span.

“That’s a significant amount that affects how we budget and how we set up our rates,” Bennett said.

She said there are 37 non-compliant residences remaining. This number is down from 80 in March 2017.

Half a million dollars is being budgeted for road upgrades this year; this will go towards paving the eastern portion of Kappel street and completing the sidewalks on Main Street and Finlayson Street.

The 2018 budget contains $820,000 for recreation and events including cenotaph upgrades, trail planning and development, increased support for events and visitor information services. There may also be tennis court upgrades if they receive a grant.

The budget contains more money for economic development and marketing initiatives. Bennett said this will go towards new entrance signs, promotional materials and a communications plan. The district is also pursuing the development of community forests, campgrounds and more hotels.

Other efforts Bennett mentioned included doctor recruitment, a transportation network study and streamlining the district’s development process and bylaws to steam-line development.

Taxes for light industry and business tax are going down while the utility tax which is applied to BC Hydro and CP Rail facilities in the district are being increased to the provincial maximum.

After Mayor Terry Rysz commended Bennett on the hard work she has done getting the financial plan together, council voted unanimously to give the financial plan first, second and third readings and move it on to the April 11 council meeting for adoption.

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