Trail council begins budget deliberations

Former clinic and Old Trail Bridge; Two costly teardowns on the horizon

Trail council began annual budget talks in earnest this week with an overview of both the upcoming financial blueprint and the five-year plan, as well as specific capital funding and associated projects for 2020.

The initial forecast to cover operations over the next 12 months has a 5.38 per cent increase, or $786,350, attached to it.

What this means to the owner of the average residential home valued at $230,062 is roughly a $75 municipal property tax increase compared to 2019.

That said, council may still decide to round it up to an even six per cent, thereby adding a further $90,000 to the coffers.

At this point there are no hiccups being anticipated that could impact the financial outlook, other than a snow removal budget possibly exceeding the budget allotted.

Looking to the months ahead, Coun. Carol Dobie says this year’s priorities are mostly about taking things down rather than building them up. This approach, excluding demolishing the old Union Hotel last summer, is unlike the past several years which had Trail building new landmarks like the Skywalk, Riverfront Centre and in 2018/19, the Trail Sk8Park.

“I think we are in a pretty good financial situation,” Dobie said. “And I am one of the biggest worriers about money, I really try to watch our spending.”

What will impact the budget this year, she says, are planning for one big teardown in downtown Trail and one monumental teardown a little further south.

“Our priority this year was going to be the hospital hill, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen,” she explained. “So we’ve got to consider tearing down the old clinic (former C.S. Williams Clinic) and the Old Trail Bridge that’s hanging over our heads.”

The current budget nears $29 million representing an increase in expenditures of $921,000 over last year.

“In addition to focusing on the total budget that is derived from consolidating the individual departmental expenditure and revenue budgets, council pays close attention to the net property tax levy and the increase over last year,” Chief Administrative Officer David Perehudoff said.

“Most significantly, $350,000 or 44.5 per cent of the net increase is attributed to a capital transfer to the Statutory Reserve Fund to deal with the eventual demolition costs for the Old Trail Bridge,” he clarified. “When council considered the 2020 preliminary budget in August 2019, they directed staff to advance the budget with no more than a six per cent increase in property taxes that fully considered the financial issues that the city should address.”

New residential assessments are estimated at $4.5 million, which generates additional tax revenue in the amount of $18,800 for the City of Trail.

As well, each one per cent increase on municipal property tax generates an additional tax revenue of $146,100.

In 2016 the flat tax for residential properties was increased from $130 to $260 to offset the impacts that resulted from disproportionate changes in housing assessments on a year over year basis.

The flat tax has, and will, remain unchanged.

Each year council is legally required to review and approve the annual City of Trail budget by May 15, and the complimentary five-year financial plan.

In 2019, the homeowner of an average-priced property valued at $218,000 per BC Assessment owed the city $1,289 on or before July 2. This equated to a 3.5 per cent increase, or $49 more than the previous year.

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