Street view of the Trail Riverfront Centre, Nov. 7. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Riverfront Centre budget a hot topic

Early budget projections had council meeting with library and museum boards this week

How much is too much to operate the new Riverfront Centre?

The jury is still out on how much taxpayers will buck up when the library/museum/visitor centre opens next year.

At this point, the projected increase nears $700,000, or about an $83 increase per capita for Trail and $21 per capita in the Village of Warfield.

Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff clarified the cost per capita increases are costs per resident based on a population of 8,000.

“It is too early to project what the costs will be on an ‘average’ homeowner,” he told the Trail Times.

After a prolonged governance meeting between the city, library and cultural services on Monday, Coun. Robert Cacchioni says council is working on making the increase more palatable, but he cautions $196,000 for Riverfront Centre operations and a $475,000 debenture are essentially fixed costs.

So that means, the only areas to effectively shave, would be service levels.

“Consequently, because of all the other projects going on, the city, administration, feels itself squeezed in terms of budget,” he said. “And nobody really wants to come into a huge increase in taxes, so this is the exercise council is going through, but it’s too early to have something come of it.”

In the past, council hasn’t cherry-picked one budgetary section so far in advance of general deliberations.

“Previously to this, all the budgets were looked at, at one time,” Cacchioni said. “The only reason these were looked at this way, is because it’s a new facility.”

The preliminary budget for the library exceeds the 2017 budget by $206,850 but is based on 53 hours, which is three more hours than the service currently offers.

The board will reconvene on Nov. 15 to look at potential cost savings.

However, Cacchioni stands by his conviction about further reducing hours, especially after the library cut 10 hours (to 50 hours per week) since 2016, in order to meet its budget.

“The problem is we don’t want to be put in a position where we open a new facility,” he said. “And we don’t provide the services that everyone would expect of a new facility.”

Cacchioni clarified,”My position has been quite clear, we need to look carefully at the apportionment of the increase (over all class taxes) before we come up with a final solution to the budget.”

He also pointed out that when the 2014 library referendum passed with 61 per cent in favour of a new build, council was clear that taxpayers would be impacted, though admittedly the cost has risen from $6.3 million to $8.4 million.

“When we went to the referendum we knew it was going to be a substantial increase,” Cacchioni said. “We knew that was the case, and presented that to the public in the referendum.”

Once the budget is set, Perehudoff explained council will need to determine how the costs will be apportioned amongst the various rate classes.

“In this regard, there has been some talk amongst council of changing how this cost is spread out between residential, major industry and business,” he added.

“If this does change, it would impact the property tax rate and what the average homeowner will pay. In addition, we don’t have assessments yet so a preliminary estimate is not possible and we would not want to suggest something now that could change in the future.”

The 2018 budget projections now stand at $1.43 million including $661,800 for the library and $231,000 for cultural services (museum, archives and Visitor Information Centre services), as well as operations.

To view complete budget projections visit trail.ca.

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