The Town of Golden’s standing committee on finance has released their proposed budget and financial plan for 2020. The document, which passed first reading at Tuesday’s town council meeting and is now open to the public forum, shows a 3.3 per cent raise in the town’s budget from 2019 with the total general operations budget being proposed at $9,318,183.
The raise in the budget is in line with the rate of inflation. Typically, the budget is raised around five per cent each year, but last year’s budget was raised 6.5 per cent. To compensate, this year’s budget was raised less than the usual amount.
The town has access to statistics that allows them to project what the rate of inflation will be from year to year, to which they tailor the budget accordingly, along with other factors and town needs.
“If you don’t budget for those kinds of increases, then you essentially are sabotaging your ability to do things in the future,” said Jon Wilsgard, chief administrative officer for the Town of Golden. “It’s no different than a person who sees that their Telus bill, or electrical bill, went up a few bucks. Planning for inflation is the reality of our society, and something we always have to do.”
The rise in the budget doesn’t necessarily correlate to a rise in taxes, however, according to Wilsgard.
While the budget may reach over $9 million, not all of that comes from taxes. A large chunk of it comes from grants, with over $5 million of the town’s proposed budget coming from grants, both conditional and unconditional. Just over $6 million comes from property taxes.
“The important thing to remember is that it’s all grant money, not municipally acquired tax money,” said Wilsgard. “It still comes in as someone else’s money, but we have to include it in our budget.”
“It’s funded in grant money, about half a million from the Resort Municipality Grant Fund that the town gets,” said Lisa Vass, the chief financial officer for the Town of Golden. “The project, in theory, is funded completely through upper level government grants at this point.”
Almost half of the budget goes towards wages for town staff.
Important highlights from the budget include an increase in the flat rate for residents on water, with a 7.1 per cent increase, as well as a six per cent increase for sewer. This translates to $3.44 a month for a single residential property. There will also be increases to the metered rate for commercial use.
The budget also includes a proposed five year plan. Each year the town is required to project their budget five years down the road. This year, the financial plan projects the town budget increasing to $7,472,345 by 2024.
If all goes according to plan, over the next five years the town will be able to execute on key projects, while continuing to build up their reserve funds for emergencies and future projects.
“If all goes ahead, by the end of five years, we’re going to have two new firetrucks and some other new equipment, a renewed dike frontage, and a redesigned downtown,” said Wilsgard. We’re going to be in an even better spot with our reserves, and have higher amounts ready to go for future projects that we want to work on.”
The budget has now been turned over to an open house for public feedback, which will occur on Jan. 21, from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. in the council chambers at Town Hall. From there, the budget will be adjusted, and passed through second readings, before going to a third and final reading for approval.
The final budget is anticipated to be released in the first week of March.
For those looking for more information, golden.ca/budget has the full budget available. Those looking to give their input can email firstname.lastname@example.org with an email titled “2020 budget”, or mail Corporate officer, Box 350, Golden, B.C, V0A 1H0. You can also participate in the conversation over Facebook, at facebook.com/townofgolden.