Niverville Town Council gave its residents one month to go over the details of the 2023 Financial Plan. Then at a Public Hearing last week, with no objections from the town, Council gave 2nd and 3rd Readings, and the budget was approved which included a tax increase and the need to put on a major street project on hold.
C.A.O. for the town, Eric King took some time to highlight the 2023 Budget.
“This year's budget is based on a 4% tax increase to the average home, which means $78.33 (increase). The average home in Niverville is now worth just under $320,000, according to the assessment. In addition, the other change that will financially impact 2023 would be the waste collection levy, which is a cost recovery system for just the waste, recycling, and compost that's done in town, this would be going up to $140 per household from $125.” King notes that this is the first increase since 2020.
Project-wise he says, the town is looking at bringing in additional resources to deal with the permitting this year and additional investments into IT and cybersecurity.
King continues, “We've budgeted for the full operational and administrative cost of the RCMP detachment. We'll also finish the project of setting up this building (CRRC) with backup power to act as a shelter in the event of an emergency."
Then King announced that the town will not be proceeding with the sewer renewal and rebuilding of 4th Avenue south, between 1st and 3rd street, due to the high costs. And that instead, the town will be putting the money aside and saving that project till next year.
King explains the reason for this decision. “The lowest bid came in $400,000 over budget. So, rather than spend money we don't have, we're going to put it away until the 2024 budget. We are going to tender it again in the fall (of this year) and get a price in advance so that we can put it into the 2024 budget in advance and know what the dollar value is going to be. So, it's not that the project is canceled, it’s on hold.”
During the discussion of the budget, Councilor Nathan Dueck requested that the sewer renewal and rebuilding of 4th Avenue be prioritized for next year. He noted that he was not objecting to delaying the work on 4th Ave, he was simply voicing his concern that the project would be prioritized in next year's budget. “So long as it becomes a priority for 2024, for the sake of people.”
Mayor Myron Dyck clarified in further detail how the decision to put the 4th Avenue project on hold.
“We had budgeted $1 million dollars to do the sewer and water repair on this street. We tendered it and the lowest bid came in at $1.4 million from the bidder with the least experience. The next bid was $1.9 million and the others were over $2 million.”
Dyck says in conversations with residential builders and heavy industrial equipment operators, he’s heard that there's a lot of left-over work from last year (2022) and that they're busy and so, "they are basically giving quotes, thinking “If we get it great, and if we don't, oh well”.
Because of this, Dyck says, “It just means we have to delay this project till next year, even though it could be a $2 million project instead of a $1 million project. It will still stay a priority, as I understand from Council. And so, to those residents living on 4th Avenue, we are asking for patience. Please know that it is a priority, but because of the cost overruns and the fact that we don't have the extra money to spend. We weren't comfortable going ahead, even at $1.4 million and so we just figured, let's retender it and see.”
Dyck notes as a council they realize the cost of the roadwork and sewer renewal project, in 2024, may come in at $2.5 million, “but we don’t know that and that's always the risk.”
Councillor Dueck was satisfied.
Commenting on the 4% tax increase, Niverville Mayor notes that there will be no effect on mill rate or sewer bills due to a reduction of surplus.
Dyck says, “The inflation rate for last year was about 7%, so we're 3% less than that, but we're dealing with the same cost to do the same things we did this last year for next year, which means we're having to do some belt-tightening in some areas to make up that 3%. This was compounded by, while it's great people want to talk about living wages and minimum wages and things like that when you go from was it $12/hr and change to $15/hr, everything gets adjusted accordingly, and that costs the town in wage-increases, and because of this about $500,000 will come out of the budget.”
“So while we understand that obviously, people need to be paid in order to be able to live, that's the impact on the budget. So, that's $500,000 less for other things but we appreciate our people. Working in various departments for the town in either full-time or part-time employment. So that's over 100 staff and we're thankful for each one of them and they need to be paid. But yeah, so that's part of the inflation.”
“While working on the budget, council was very cognizant of that and it wasn't without a lot of wrestling, because we think of people and their grocery bills and their gas prices going up and cost of kids, all things kids, that are going up and yeah, it's all been taken into consideration, but at the end of the day, to fall too far behind with being able to care for things of the town, the 4% is what Council decided on.”
There were no objections to the 2023 Niverville Financial plan.
After 2nd and 3rd Readings the 2023 Niverville Financial Plan was approved unanimously.
Other highlights of the 2023 Financial Plan include:
The Niverville CRRC now houses the old water plant generator, which will be used as backup power so that it can be used as an emergency shelter for the town.
Traffic lights will be going up at Mulberry and PR 311 in spring or early summer.
They will begin the detailed design of PR311 between Krahn Road and Wallace Road this year.
Hespler Cemetary will continue to be developed. We're working on more curbing for the headstones and putting up additional plots in the cemetery.
They will be undertaking the rewriting of the development plan and zoning by-law for which we are currently waiting on a confirmation from the province.
They will continue the investment in sponsorship and marketing as Niverville is a commercial and industrial hub for the southeast.
The biggest two things on the financial plan were needing to budget for cost increases due to minimum wage. As there are two rate wage increases in 2023. One that is occurring on April 1 and another one that's occurring in October. As well, as the expansion of the number of camps that are going to be offered throughout the summer.
The Niverville water treatment plant is going through its final testing and should be done in early April or May at the latest.
They will continue to work on the Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility and with RSR (Red Seine Rat Watersheds) and also begin discussions with some of their neighbors about long-term raw water co-op, and look at long-term sustainability and protection of water as a resource to the community.
Some capital projects this year include, looking at purchasing a new dump truck this year. Ordering a water tanker for the fire department as well as purchasing the last of the firefighter turn-out gear replacements should also be done this year. The town will also be setting aside money for the new Firehall and purchasing land for it.
Completing the artwork on the bollards project in front of the CRRC. A project that was started last year.
The dog park will be operational again this year.
Building two new crosswalks on 5th Ave.
Improving the accessibility at the Centennial Arena, in particular the washrooms and the lobby.