Cache Creek is facing a seven per cent tax increase, and the village is trying to build up reserves, break even on its utilities, and encourage new business and housing development.
All this and more was covered at a public meeting at the Cache Creek community hall on April 12, where Chief Financial Officer Cristina Martini went over the budget.
She gave a brief summary of property taxes, noting that since the village collects money on behalf of other agencies — the TNRD, the hospital district, the province for education and policing, Municipal Finance Authority, and BC Assessment Authority — the village only gets to keep a little over half of the total amount shown on each property tax bill. A property tax bill from 2020 was used to illustrate that of the $1,384.29 total, $783.37 went to the village; the remaining $600.92 was collected on behalf of other agencies and levels of government.
She explained that the frontage rates the village collects each year are not meant to fund operations (the cost of running the village); they are meant to be set aside for reserves so that they are available for capital expenditures. This, she said, is something that has not been done in the past, leaving the village’s reserves low.
Among the constraints facing the village are inflation, the probability of recession, major supply chain issues, and global economic conditions triggered by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the war there. The village’s small tax base is also a concern, along with outdated infrastructure, lack of business and industrial diversity, past reliance on external sources of revenue (i.e. the Cache Creek landfill), and the threat of natural disasters such as flooding.
On the plus side, Martini pointed to the potential of undeveloped industrial land in the village and land in the downtown area for businesses, as well as new housing development.
Martini noted that the village had high revenues in the past from the Cache Creek landfill, which closed in December 2016. This revenue largely disappeared until the Campbell Hill landfill opened in late 2020.
In 2015, the landfill made up 42 per cent of the village’s revenue, against 22 per cent in 2021. This amount is gradually increasing, but Martini said that in the absence of the former high revenues, the village needs to compensate with municipal revenue.
The village is also trying to break even with its utilities (water, sewer, and garbage). In the past, said Martini, the amount the village collected through utility bills was far less than what was needed in order to operate properly; the shortfall was covered by revenue from the Landfill Legacy Fund. As a result, utility rates have been increased in order to create reserves for unexpected events.
Martini explained the difference in tax rates between various classes (residential, business, industrial, etc.). She pointed out that the light industrial tax rate in Cache Creek is very high ($180 per $1,000 assessed property value), noting that in Ashcroft the rate is $17. She added that while the village is attempting to reduce that rate in order to attract more light industry, it is a process that will take several years, since reducing the revenue from that source means it has to be made up from somewhere else.
When the floor was opened to questions, council was asked what it had done to improve landfill revenue. Mayor Santo Talarico replied that Cache Creek is a co-permit holder for the landfill, not the owner/operator of the site, and that the job of getting business for the landfill was up to the owner/operator.
A question was asked about what happened to the COVID Safe Restart funding the village received in late 2020. Martini explained that it was used to cover a variety of expenditures, adding that all the expenses have been documented and audited.
A resident spoke at length about new expenses — such as a bylaw officer, participation in the transit service, additional staff, and infrastructure work — and increased taxes and utility rates, but a perceived lack of spending cuts apart from closing the pool. She also cited a lack of public consultation about taking on new expenses and closing the pool, and suggested a referendum on the pool at the same time that the municipal election is held in October.
Coun. Sue Peters spoke to the questions of the bylaw officer and the transit service, saying that during the 2018 election she heard from many people that both were wanted, and that comparing those costs with the pool costs is apples and oranges, since the pool has cost overruns of more than $100,000 per year.
Martini said that when she started with the village three years ago, she went through the budget line by line to see where costs could be cut; renegotiated contracts with suppliers, group benefits, insurers, BC Hydro, and more; and looked at all major operational expenses. She also said that in 2017 the village was running a deficit of $460,000, because it relied on external sources of revenue that dried up. As a result, taxes have had to increase, and it was confirmed that this year’s proposed tax increase is seven per cent.
The proposed 2022 budget will be given first and second reading at the May 2 council meeting.