Cache Creek residents are facing a total tax increase of 30 per cent for 2021, as well as a 25 per cent increase in water, sewer, and garbage rates, and an increase in frontage rates from $2.65 per foot of taxable foot frontage in 2020 to $3.45 per foot this year.
The 30 per cent tax increase is from an increase in the assessed value of properties — which are up approximately 10 per cent over last year —and a 20 per cent tax increase from the village. The frontage increase is due to capital projects being undertaken by the village and will address a shortfall in infrastructure funds.
The budget does not contain provisions for opening the Cache Creek pool in 2021, so the facility will remain closed. Several local residents gathered outside the village office in their vehicles and honked their horns for five minutes at the start of the May 3 council meeting as a protest about the proposed pool closure.
These measures were all contained in the village’s 2021 budget and five-year financial plan, which were the subject of a presentation and vote at the May 3 meeting. The three bylaws pertaining to the budget and five-year financial plan were all given first three readings, with Coun. Annette Pittman the only council member who voted against all three. There was no discussion.
Chief Financial Officer Cristina Martini had made a public presentation about the village’s financial position during a town hall meeting on April 29, which was livestreamed. She outlined Cache Creek’s strengths (location; strong volunteer base; an influx of young families; the community is debt-free) and its weaknesses (small tax base; outdated infrastructure; past reliance on external sources of revenue (such as the Cache Creek landfill); and a lack of business and industrial diversity).
Her presentation noted that in 2015, landfill royalties and Crown leases accounted for 42 per cent of the village’s revenue; a figure which shrunk to five per cent in 2020. It also showed that while in 2019 the village spent five per cent of its operating expenditure on flood control and repairs, that figure jumped to 22 per cent in 2020.
The village has several projects at various stages, including work on the water treatment and sewage treatment plants, flood mitigation planning, debris flow management, flood recovery, a backup well, and asset management. The total cost of all the projects is estimated at $5.4 million, with most of those costs covered by grant funding.
One of the projects is a Tesla electric vehicle charging station being installed in the community hall parking lot. Martini said that while the station itself is no cost to the village, there are costs for staff wages for the installation, which are being paid for by the village.
Martini also listed some of the financial constraints facing the village, including 10 per cent increases in utilities; a 27 per cent increase in insurance costs; a 20 per cent increase in fuel costs; a 15 per cent increase in water consumption; environmental uncertainties such as floods and wildfires; and aged infrastructure that requires unexpected capital upgrades. “2020 flood was a very bad flood year, which left a lot of infrastructure uncovered and needing repair,” she explained during the budget presentation.
During the same presentation, Martini reiterated that municipal governments are not allowed to run a deficit; the books must be balanced each year. The village has, for several years, run a deficit of approximately $430,000 per year, and used money from the Landfill Legacy Fund to make up that shortfall; a practice that an external auditor warned council that they could not continue to do at a presentation in April 2021.
The auditor noted that in future, the village needed to either cut services or increase revenue sources in order to maintain a balanced budget.
“Right now we are using [Landfill Legacy funds] for operations because we don’t generate enough revenue,” said Martini. This year’s budget shows a total of $837,021 being transferred from reserves, including $430,000 from the Landfill Legacy Fund.
However, the budget report notes that while money from the fund will be used to offset the reduction in landfill revenues in 2021 and 2022, it is the long-term goal of council to provide services from taxes and user fees, not from the legacy fund.
At the town hall meeting Martini said that she would be recommending to council that they not open the pool this year, and during the budget presentation she used two slides to show the cost of operating the pool. One slide showed that during the period 2009–2019 inclusive, the pool brought in $107,076 in total income, while operating expenditures for the same period totalled $1,213,157, meaning the pool operates at an average deficit of $100,552 per year.
A second slide showed how much the village raised in property taxes each year vs. the annual operating expenditures for the pool. During the five-year period from 2015–2019, pool expenditures averaged 26.6 per cent of the municipal taxes collected each year.
“Every year the operating costs [for the pool] are between $100,000 and $120,000, and right now we don’t have the landfill revenue to make up the deficit,” said Martini. “My recommendation is that the pool not open.”
Questions from the public included inquiries about whether the village had a bullying and harassment policy, which Mayor Santo Talarico said would not be discussed. In answer to another question he said that the village had spent some of the COVID-19 Safe Restart grant funding, and would be keeping the remainder in reserve until COVID-19 subsides.
In answer to questions about the park and the washroom facilities, Martini said there was money in the budget for parks and recreation, and that details would be available in the full budget. She added that the washrooms are closed mainly due to COVID-19 and the need to sterilize them after use. “We don’t have the funds.”
A question about the hiring of a new chief administrative officer elicited the response that the posting for the job had closed on April 30. “We will evaluate all the applications and make a decision,” said Martini, who has been handling the CAO duties since the retirement of former CAO Martin Dalsin earlier this year.
The presentations made at the budget town hall meeting and during May 3’s budget discussion can be viewed on the village’s website at http://www.village.cachecreek.bc.ca/.