Revelstoke’s new 15-year budget format a better crystal ball into the city’s financial future

City of Revelstoke's new financial plan format now extends out for 15 years, as opposed to the old five-year format, giving more insight into the city's long-term planning and priorities.

Revelstoke City Hall on Mackenzie Avenue. Photo: Revelstoke Mountaineer file photo

What will the Revelstoke look like in 15 years? That’s something city hall has shed some light on with it’s new 15-year financial plan that starts this year and looks all the way to 2032.

Significantly, the financial plan looks at the city’s needs for the next 15 years, instead of only five years as has been the norm in the past.

“A planning period of 15 years has been adopted for both operating and capital so that the long-term implications of current day decisions can be considered and so that the city can chart a sustainable financial path for the community,” writes Tania McCabe, the city’s director of finance, in the new document, which council has already met to discuss twice (without any media attending the public meetings.)

Council is contemplating a budget that calls for a three per cent tax increase, $20.7 million in operating expenses, and $8.4 million in capital spending for 2018. Council has already met twice to discuss the budget, with a third meeting scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25.

The 2018 City of Revelstoke Draft Long-Term Financial Plan

2018 City of Revelstoke Draft L ong – Term Financial Plan & Community Report by Revelstoke Mountaineer on Scribd

The city hopes to have a draft financial plan go out to the public for comment in mid-February, with a meeting scheduled for Feb. 20 to solicit feedback. Council also has to discuss how the tax increase will be distributed over the various property classes.

The draft plan is 131 pages and folds the community report into the budget. It provides organizational charts for each department, an overview of their accomplishments and responsibilities, and a look at their priorities going forward. It looks at Revelstoke’s financial picture and compares the city’s situation compared to other communities.

What’s in store for 2018?

The city expects to spend $20.7 on operations in 2018 — a 3.5 per cent increase over 2017. Spending increases average about two per cent per year thereafter, rising to $27.5 million in 2032.

The budget calls for $8.4 million in capital spending in 2018. Among the more notable items are:

-$1.9 million on various water projects, including $700,000 to extend the water line to the airport;

-$961,000 on various sewer projects;

-$320,000 to relocate the Third Street West water and sewer lines away from the slumping bank;

-$640,000 to repair the exterior of city hall;

-$945,000 on road paving, patching and repair;

-$655,000 on a new splash park and $725,000 ($125,000 in city funding, $600,000 from grant funding) on a new skateboard park;

-$210,000 on various arena upgrades;

-and $155,000 on projects identified in the trails master plan.

One change in the budget is in how new capital projects will get approved. Spending that’s not part of the financial plan must be proposed by department heads and approved by council. The financial plan concludes with a wishlist that includes a request for an RCMP Sergeant ($125,280), another engineering technician ($103,500) and an extra building inspector ($85,000). Council has yet to discuss these asks.

Taxpayers will be slightly relieved to see a proposed tax increase of three per cent in 2018, and two per cent per year going forward, though that’s only compared to last year’s budget, which called for five per cent tax increases for the foreseeable future to meet infrastructure demands. Taxation makes up about 55 per cent of the city’s estimated $20.7 million revenue for 2018, with the rest coming from grants, user fees and returns on investments.

Water rates have been increased to $425 per household, from $405 in 2017, while sewer rates have been increased to $284 from $270 in 2018.

What about the next 15 years?

Perhaps the most significant change to the plan is the longer look into the future. This is especially notable in terms of capital spending, where a desire to know more about the long-term needs of the city spurred the longer outlook. However, the budget states that the plans will likely change as more information becomes available.

“It should also be noted that the capital projects in the later years are not based on detailed estimates like those in the first few years, and that as capital projects become more current (in subsequent versions of the long-term plan) updated cost estimates will be obtained,” states the plan.

What are some of the projects being contemplated between now and 2032? For one, the city plans on spending about $26 million on roads over the next 15 years, while another $5 million is slated for bridge renewal, $5.5 million for the stormwater system, and $1 million on sidewalks. That’s just part of the $44 million the engineering and public works department expects to spend until 2032.

The parks department plans to spend about $8 million on capital projects such as playground improvements, sports field maintenance and much more over the next 15 years. Upgrades to Williamson’s Lake are expected to cost $1 million through 2024.

The city plans on spending $17 million on the water network and $11.1 million on the sewer system (not including a new treatment plant).

$12.9 million is earmarked towards vehicle replacement over the course of the plan.

The budget calls for the no new borrowing and the pay down of existing debt over time. The city plans to build up its reserves, from about $3 million to $4.7 million by 2032, and the plan calls for savings from reduced debt to be put into reserves. This follows a policy of “pay now, buy later.” Under this plan, the city hopes to be debt free by 2037.

An exception is for local area service projects, like the Big Eddy water project, where residents of a certain neighbourhood would pay back debt incurred on projects that benefit them.

It is notable what’s not in the 15-year financial plan – $70 million in development cost charges projects. They will instead be included in a new DCC bylaw that is being developed over the next few months and will be made part of future financial plans.

Projects include $30.2 million for a new sewage treatment plant, $15 million to increase the size of the transmission pipe from the Greeley Water Treatment Plant, $5 million for bridge replacement, $4 million for water reservoir expansion, and $2.5 million on the Fourth/Victoria/Townley intersection.

The budget notes that the city can borrow to pay for DCC projects in advance, but at a risk that it won’t collect enough fees to pay down the debt.

“The long-term capital plan as it relates to DCC projects will have to be amended in the future based on the new DCC bylaw,” states the budget. “Financing DCC projects and related growth without debt will be a major challenge for the city in the future.”