The annual five-year budget for the regional body that manages solid waste for the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts plan to ask for roughly the same amount from property owners this year as last.
Comox Strathcona Waste Management staff presented the 2020-2024 financial plan at the Feb. 13 meeting, with a few updates from a draft presented in September.
The budget is calling for about $6 million in tax requisition, about the same as last year. In 2019, the amount represented a jump of about $2 million over the previous year, and some members of the board, comprised of regional district representatives from the two areas, complained about the increase and how the tax requisition kept increasing year over year, after they had been told that increases would be covered by tipping fees.
The latest plan does include tipping fee hikes this year in line with consumer price index numbers from the last three years.
Based on the 2020 assessment roll, the estimate residential tax rate for the solid waste service should be $0.1917 per $1,000 or taxable property, compared with a 2019 residential tax rate of $0.2058 per $1,000 of property. As an example, a Feb. 6 staff report notes a home with an assessed value of $500,000 would be face a tax requisition of $95.86 for service.
The report notes a few differences from the plan presented last fall, including an estimated surplus of $900,000, which would be in the capital reserve account. This surplus breaks down into $300,000 from additional revenue through tipping fee increases and $600,000 from expenses less than planned. Amounts for wages and benefits are up 4.1 per cent overall, though showed a slight decrease from November due to a half-time wage reduction.
There were also changes in operational expenses from the preliminary budget in the fall, such as increases of $50,000 due to small-scale organic diversion, $120,000 for carbon offsets for the Campbell River Waste Management Centre, $30,000 in equipment rental for the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre and $6,600 for a security contract. There was also a $30,000 decrease from non-Recycle BC depots. The report also lists capital projects that are being carried forward or added, totaling $3.7 million.
A motion for the board to endorse capital procurement methods passed, with only Jim Abram, one of the SRD directors, voting in opposition.
There were some points of concern at the February meeting over details. Brenda Leigh, a director from the SRD, supported the budget but had some concerns, including the tax rate, suggesting they were not giving themselves enough to finish work.
“I honestly don’t think the taxpayers want us to reduce our budget so that we are unable to complete the objectives in the solid waste plan, to build cells, to close Campbell River,” she said. “We need to have the money available. The actual cost per household is really negligible at six million [dollars].”
One of the concerns was around public education and clearing up confusion especially around recycling and CSWM goals.
“I think there is some value of that being handled internally,” said Nicole Minions, one of the Comox directors from CVRD. “I think diversion is one of our primary objectives of the service.”
She made a motion for staff to look into the education and advertising budget for solid waste, including the consideration of an internal position to help with informing the public.
Finally, one of the items cited in the report was a structural problem at a bin wall in the Comox Valley discovered in January. The estimated cost to replace the structure is $350,000. A couple of board members suggested staff look into recovering some of the costs relating to the failing bin wall, but the motion was defeated.
Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services, said the wall at CSWM is at the drop-off area for the public. It was built in 1995. Water can get into the blocks used for the wall, which are then subject to breaking apart from freezing and thawing.
“It’s something that we just discovered, and we need to deal with quickly,” he said. “I don’t think this is a warranty issue.”
The staff presentation on the financial plan outlines the timeframe, which includes finalizing the budget for the next meeting set for March 12 in Campbell River. This is to allow CSWM time to meet the statutory deadline to adopt the plan by the end of March.