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REPORTING · 25th February 2011
Walter McFarlane
Alcan power sales? KIR Discussed? Will Retire in Kitimat be Funded? The Budget begins!

Council sat down to budget on Thursday, February 24th at 9 am. All Councillors were present and accounted for and ready to make some big decisions. The first day of the budget allowed Administration to make presentations of their year end reports to Council as well as present their budgets and capital expense wish lists to Council.

Council also had the ability to ask questions of the administration about their budgets and make a few preliminary changes. While motions were made, no part of this budget is set in stone until it reaches final adoption within the next couple of months.

Municipal Manager Trafford Hall presented first bringing Council up to speed. He explained they were going to lose $3 million dollars. Last year, they shifted the tax burden onto those who were leaving and contributed to reserves. Hall explained it would take three years to bring their operations down. They may be short on capital expenditures and seek savings where they could.

He explained energy and labour were what the District ran on and both numbers were probably going to go up soon. He stated in 2012, they would be losing another 2 million dollars and they might lose more as Eurocan was refuting their assessment. He asked Council to keep that in mind as they were going through their budget. He also said there were options for land purchases.

He said the wish lists were ready for Council to cut. The decision on what would be cut was up to Council. He explained the way the budget looks now, taxes would increase by 17.4% before balencing and it was Council’s job to bring the wish lists down.

Hall said they were going to discuss snow removal. Finally, Council will have to make apportionment decision on all classes. However, those were the decisions to be made tomorrow.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff wanted to talk about Eurocan because prior to the 20% increase, they were contributing $4.8 million. He said Council was assuming a worst case scenario dropping the assessment. Hall said they only lost $3 million. Feldhoff pointed out Eurocan is paying half of what they are historically paying.

Councillor Gerd Gottschling said Hall was taking an optimistic view and Council should have funds available so if they hit a storm, they could pay for it. Eurocan has taken the assessment authority to court and if they win, Council is going to need to have money to cover the loss.

“We plan for the worst and we hope for the best and we’re going to be happy we did,” said Hall.

Halyk inquired about how the assessment would affect the tax. Hall stated they have an assessment and a mill rate. Hall explained they just deal with taxes. Changes in assessment means changes in the mill rate. Council had $1.5 million year end surplus.

Administration pointed out they are 98% accurate. They have not closed the books from last year. Hall expressed they are scrambling. Council requires $3,796,154 in new revenues which would mean a $17.14% increase in taxes or a $175.39 increase if Council does not make any cuts.

“As you as decision makers are going through pondering the requirements of the municipality, your job as a councillor is to make fundamental decisions on behalf of the taxpayer,” said Hall to Council. “You are balancing in your mind what is an acceptable level of tax increase, what is an acceptable burden on the tax payer, what is required to run the municipality. That’s your job.”

Council moved on to administration. Steve Christiansen, the new treasurer took a seat at the big table to go through anticipated revenue.

Martin Gould took a seat to talk about changes in revenue. He explained numbers were down in recreation. Minor hockey lost 44 members, adult hockey teams decrease from 23 to 15, and while figure skating increased in numbers, the hours they use the ice are down per week.

The aquatic centre also noticed their numbers down and as such, have been monitoring their numbers. Riverlodge revenue being down became apparent earlier in the year and they made sure they were not spending money where it was not necessary. Gould estimated revenues would be down because there were not as many people using their programs.

“I wasn’t expecting the dip to be that low, but there are a lot of extenuating circumstances,” said Gould.

In parks, he hoped to see a great summer but he was not anticipating another sunny summer. In addition, the price of fuel was expected to go up and Radley Park lost two more campsites due to erosion.

Monaghan asked if they budgeted based on all the industries coming to Kitimat which could bring families. Gould replied he was budgeting for a worst case scenario.

Scott wished to make a motion to round numbers off. Council asked her to make this motion for next year. Council also discussed increasing dog licensing fees but this was tabled until April.

During this presentation, Council made several motions to change the numbers in anticipated revenue. Some of these motions were carried, others failed. They also made many inquiries around specific sources of funding.

Scott put forward a motion to remove the contingency money from Alcan Power Sales issue and put a small amount of money into Measuring Up Kitimat so the community can slowly become accessible. The contingency was removed. No money was put into Measuring Up because the low hanging fruit had been claimed. With all the changes through the morning, the total percentage dropped was half of one percent by lunch. The total was 17.01%

Scott wanted to know why the clerk department came in over budget in 2010. Christiansen said there had been a charge for outstanding vacation which was not covered. This put the department over budget.

Halyk motioned to change the Retire Kitimat Task Force grant and put money taken away towards tourism. He made three separate motions, to reduce it 100%, to remove $30,000 and then to reduce the grant to $10,000. There was no seconder. Scott explained where the money went. Administration added this was mostly for advertising.

“We need to really focus where our funds are being spent. We are at this table trying to find a dollar here and there and we’re looking at throwing money hither tither rather then having a focused view on how to bring people together,” said Halyk.

The Clerks Department started their presentation. Walter McLellan went through the department, what it does and what his department looks after including Animal Control, Freedom of Information and Transit. One question asked by Councillor Feldhoff was what to do with the old animal shelter. The response was they were planning to turn it into the gardening centre for the district.

The planning department came next. Gwen Sewell took the head of the table and talked about how the planning department spent 2010. Sewell suggested raising permit fees to help cover the staff time to cover the application. Council discussed upgrading the website to include the Council Packages and merging other Kitimat websites.

Economic development came next. Like the other departments, they went through out the work they did in 2010. Rose Klukas mentioned with the Eurocan closure, they received a lot of inquiries about the land and worked quickly on all the requests as West Fraser was interested in selling the land. They hosted several Federal Ministers and gave them information on Kitimat and the walkways and viewpoint signage.

Fire Chief John Klie was next. He explained they had responded to 730 ambulance calls over the last year, they trained the ambulance crew so they can apply IV and responded to 140 fire related calls. Nine of the fires accounted for 97% of the loss. There was no loss of life due to fires. Calls were up for ambulance. They had budgeted for 700 calls.

Klie had several capital requests for Council. One was the replacement of the ladder truck, a $1,000,000 expense. While the truck can be refurbished, it’s still an old truck and it could get another 5-10 years out of it before it has to be replaced.

Other items included replacing the fire chiefs truck, window replacement, roof flashing repair, hire a consultant to do a review of the building and replacing the SCBA packs and bottles with 20 new packs and spare bottles.

The meeting extended so Recreation could deliver their presentation. Gould stepped up to speak about what the Recreation Department does. In 2010, they fought through a lot of cut backs, but they did make a lot of improvements around the facilities. They found if they did not replace the condenser at Tamitik, it would have failed and would have had to have been replaced anyway.

Acting Mayor Randy Halyk took over because Monaghan had to leave.

Gould continued going through the operating expenses and came to Kitimat Ice Rink. The facilities were not upgraded over the summer as they were told not to spend any money they do not have to. The facility did not have much use according to Gould. Feldhoff asked why it came in under budget. Gould replied it was because they did no summer maintenance.

Halyk wanted to know how much use KIR received and how they should go forward. Gould replied the use was down. Gould stated Tamitik could handle all the usage although the adult teams would be going until midnight. They would also reduce the number of weekend public skates. The rink would run from 6 am until midnight.

Feldhoff wanted to know what would be the cost to install plastic ice. Gould explained it would cost $500-$600 thousand and would last about 15-20 years. The skating would be different as it was a slower surface.

Under capital for recreation, there were many requests. In Riverlodge, the Community room still needs refurbishment for walls and bumper boards, the cardio room floor needs replacement, the Riverlodge entrance heat ramp trace is broken, the rock wall needs to be restored. All of these are return requests.

At the pool, there were requests for a disabled lift to help people changing in the family change room out of their wheel chairs, the landscaping, the penthouse requires cooling and ventilation, the lane ropes need to be repaired, the on-deck child play area needs to be added to the deck, and a walkway needs to be built to the penthouse to protect the roof.

In Tamitik, they wish to continue the dressing room floor replacement, the Tamitik sound system, a safe access for the room, the meeting room floor needs to be refurbished.

In the Kitimat Ice rink, there is an issue with the dehumidifier. It is 22 years old but they have sunk a lot of money into it, the compressor needs to be replaced, the propane / ammonia sensor needs to be replaced and the outside door needs to be replaced.

Outdoors, the fence needs to be repaired at one of the community’s ball fields, another one, which is not used, needs to be removed. Centennial Park needs to be repaired as the wall is falling apart and needs to be rebuilt and the fountain is planned to be converted into a fountain.

In addition, Bunting Park needs to be brought up to standards, Heron Park needs to be completed and the purchase of street light banners for fall.

In the parks and campgrounds, the covered area washroom needs it’s foundation repaired, the Roof in Hirsch Creek needs to be repaired, improvements need to be made and a development plan is needed for Radley Park as they are losing campsites because of river erosion The final request was the request for the Mount Elizabeth Tennis Courts.

During the meeting Feldhoff made several motions to transfer several of the items from the operating expenses into the Capital Expenses. During his final motion, he argued doing this was a good idea because Enbridge was pointing towards Council with millions of dollars in taxes. “Lets bridge our way to the future,” said Feldhoff.

The meeting was scheduled to end at four thirty, but it ended at 6:30. The Budget meetings resumes later today, at 9:00 Am. Engineering still has to make their presentation and Council is scheduled. Balancing follows and along with tax burden.
Comment by mary on 25th February 2011
great to see progress made on the budget...went to the district office on the 24th...during lunch! Trafford was there as usual working through lunch dealing with the budget. It was no surprise to me. :) after completing my buisness stopped in and said goodby to trafford...yep he was still working through lunch, no one else in sight!!
As i kept stating Kitimat still have not felt the full impact of the Eurocan closure, and hopefully there is some positive in the future of our little town.
Dog licensing
Comment by Anonymous on 25th February 2011
Perhaps instead of increasing dog license fees, the district could actually enforce dog licenses? I pay my fees every year, but a rough survey of dogs that I met this morning showed that over half don't have tags.

With that increase of money, they could cover the running costs of the shelter which seems to be running on an over-stretched skeleton staff of volunteers.
Comment by richard j morhart on 25th February 2011
so much for staying Neutral,on the enbridge pipe line. now we got our hands out. once you take that bribe,there ain`t no turning back. Thank-you Mr. Feldhoff. i guess money Talk`s. destroy the pristine wilderness .what a sell out. spoon fed by large corperations. Whatever. why does the D.O.K not have it`s own building,why renting in the mall. thousands and thousands of dollars,this is kind of pointless but who`s cares. how much tax dollars paid for the rental of D.O.K office s in the upper mall. Could this be better spent on a building the distric Owns,why pay rent.makes no sence. a bridge too Far. spin doctors at work,keep out!