First draft of next year’s District of Houston budget

First draft of next year’s District of Houston budget

A first draft of next year’s District of Houston budget calls for a continuation of its policy of increasing total property taxes by 2.7 per cent a year.

That projected increase amounts to $111,957, raising the District’s property tax amount from $4,146,562 in its 2019 base budget to a projected $4,258,519 base budget for 2020.

And with other revenue projections included, the District is forecasting a 2020 base budget of $5,767,670 — a 3.37 per cent increase or $187,801 over 2019.

The projected 2020 base budget for general operations was released the end of November.

A portion of the revenue increase — $16,000 — will come from fee boosts in leisure facility rentals and services.

But there’ll also be a $25,000 jump in investment revenue because the District has yet to spend all of a provincial grant it received in early 2019, explained District of Houston chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck.

“The unused Northern Capital and Planning Grant Funding [is] being placed in a reserve while we sort out grant funding and/or design plans for projects it was allocated toward,” said Pinchbeck.

Houston received $4.486 million from the provincial government’s Northern Capital and Planning Grant Program, already allocating $1.690 million for specific purposes while reserving the rest for future use.

Utility companies such as Pacific Northern Gas, B.C. Hydro and Telus will be paying more next year than this year to the District for their service lines running through the municipality.

The rate is 1 per cent of total revenue earned from properties within the municipal boundaries and the 2020 amount reflects earnings from 2018.

Utility companies paid $141,101 in 2019 and will be paying $150,752, a jump of 6.84 per cent, in 2020.

There’s also a hint in the budget document of the District moving to meet citizen complaints revolving around the lack of bylaw enforcement.

Provisionally, the District is considering a sharing a bylaw officer and, accordingly, has pencilled in a $5,000 increase in ticket revenue. But sharing a bylaw officer will increase staffing costs by $56,600.

“We are looking at opportunities to share the resource so that we can attract qualified candidates for the role,” said Pinchbeck.

“All fine revenues generated as a result of enforcement would be paid to the District.”

On the expenditure side, the 2020 base budget document shows a jump in general government costs of 6.36 per cent, from $1,139,816 to $1,212,319. Protective services expense rises to $511,954 from $428,872, mostly on the strength of sharing a bylaw enforcement officer.

There’s also a $7,250 increase in grants of assistance that can be approved by the District council.

The base operating budget takes in the general workings of the District and does not include significant capital expenditures. It has a separate fund for its water system and a separate one for its sewer system.

Water and sewer rates are contained within a standalone bylaw.