How would you like to pay? City staff informed council in last Monday evening’s committee of the whole (COW) session, that to renew all of Rossland’s city capital assets now it would cost approximately $17.7 million.
In a COW presentation that lasted moments shy of five hours and ended before Council would have had to unanimously vote to continue past 10 p.m., city staff Mr. Darrin Albo, Manager of Operations and Ms. Lois Hunter, Acting Chief Financial Officer oriented the newly elected officials through the functions and roles of the departments of their responsibly.
Council needs to determine a first year financial plan and have it adopted prior to May 15, 2015. It may seem like a large lead-time but Council has a lot to take into consideration and needs to be strategic in its approach to using the public coffers.
Officials will need to ensure the financial plan is affordable and sustainable for the community. They will have to factor everything in from service levels, to capital projects, to maintenance and operational expenses and as a result the community should be left with acceptable standards of infrastructure servicing water, sewage, roads and recreation just to name a few of the city’s areas of responsibility.
Hunter was not the bearer of good news, she noted, on presentation of a draft budget. If the financial plan was to maintain the status quo then numerous warning lights were flashing. Staff was asking for a general consensus on how the budget might look moving forward.
Capital projects are seriously underfunded and urgently need addressing, was a message that rang loud and clear. The city needs to get a bylaw in place to ensure water and sewer is self-funding.
“It has become very apparent that water and sewer are not funding themselves, not even in maintenance, let alone capital,” said Hunter.
The city is now left with a situation on Washington Street where the main water line that distributes water to a large proportion of Rossland households is in urgent need of replacement.
The pipe built in the 1890s is beyond its life expectancy. In essence, the ground is holding up the pipe. The infrastructure has now become a liability — if a serious leak was to occur it could blow the pipe right out. If the pipe were to erupt, the city would be in an emergency situation and without sufficient fire coverage.
The capital cost to upgrade Washington Street is estimated at around $5.6 million. This is more than the annual revenue of $4.4 million generated by Rossland property taxes. The Council would like to consult and work through to a solution on funding the city’s expenses with community representatives.
Grant funding opportunities are available for capital and infrastructure projects however Hunter also cautioned this money is drying up. Other options to fund capital projects would include cost savings in other areas of council such as decreasing service levels, decreasing maintenance and operation levels or to increasing property taxes.
By increasing property taxes by one per cent, each household would pay an additional $17.50 and this would raise an additional amount of approximately $39,000 in city revenue. This figure is nowhere close to the amount required to maintain an acceptable level of infrastructure for the city.
Grant projects take time and money to get to the “shovel ready” stage. The first grant staff is recommending council apply for, closes on Feb. 18, 2015. City staff haveproposed a timeline of an additional five meetings to discuss their strategic approach to funding the city’s infrastructure and services before the application deadline. The next COW meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Jan. 5. Council invite the public to the gallery for the meetings.