Five-year District budget highlights water and highway projects

The District is forecasting an average of 2.7 percent property tax increases for the next five years.

The District is forecasting an average of 2.7 percent property tax increases for the next five years.

It is part of how the District has re-balanced the budget after they lost $480,000 in taxes due to the closure of Houston Forest Products (HFP), said Director of Finance William Wallace.

The budget was balanced through annual 2.7 percent tax increases and $328,000 in District cost cuts in 2015.

Mayor and council approved a five-year (2015 to 2019) financial plan at a meeting last Tuesday.

Wallace said the five-year forecast factors in expected operating and energy cost increases estimated at 2.25 percent.

The budget also assumes that the district will continue to transition well through the impacts of the mill closure.

Wallace says the active residential real estate market has been “pretty encouraging.”

He also notes that the $480,000 HFP tax loss was partly offset in 2015 by $25,000 invested in new construction in Houston.

There are three major projects in the five-year plan.

(1) Finalizing the water treatment plant construction is a $1.7 million project that will be done this year.

(2) With a water tower needing repair, the District plans to develop a design for a new water storage reservoir and transmission upgrades this year.

They plan to construct a new water reservoir in 2016 with a forecasted at $2.4 million.

Depending on grants, they plan to refurbish the old reservoir in 2017, estimated at $700,000.

(3) This year, the District will decide what they want to do for a Highway 16 upgrade project in partnership with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).

Wallace says detailed design work would likely be done by MOTI in 2016.

He says MOTI will likely tender the project in 2017 and start construction 2018.

In the 2015 budget, the District has $1.7 million for the water treatment plant.

They also budgeted $145,000 for District transition initiatives. This includes money to implement the economic development plan and do work particularly on the industrial and downtown. It will be used to complete a parks and recreation master plan, explore options for the Highway 16 project, and complete the branding and website project.

It is also for health care lobbying, and to develop a portfolio to market brown fields and the old HFP site to potential investors.

The District has $115,00 budgeted for projects related to the asset management plan. The asset management plan is a major plan to guide the District in maintaining infrastructure and assets.

At a December 2014 finance meeting, Wallace said he expects the asset management plan to usher in annual tax increases over five percent in 2019 to 2023.