Budget Rants – Community Grants – Sewage Plants

Budget fun continues!

We had a great session last Wednesday night with the public where everyone was able to give their opinions on what they thought would be good projects for the City to do, or services to cut.  Some of the details presented were new to us as Councillors as well.  There were probably around 40 members of the public there and many good conversations were had.

I highly recommend going to the 2015-2019 Financial plan website! Download the presentation from Wednesday night. It details all of the options that were presented to the public.  Of course, if you have other initiatives you’d like to see happen or services you think can be streamlined, you can send those in too!

There is also an online survey!  Click here to fill it out!

I’m a numbers and graphs kinda guy… so one slide from the City Manager’s presentation stuck out for me.

This one is very interesting.  It shows very succinctly where the majority of the homes in Port Alberni are valued, and thus, what their average municipal rate is after all of the regional, school, and hospital things are removed.  This does not take into account home owner grants.

Graph showing how many houses pay what level of taxes across the City.
Graph showing how many houses pay what level of taxes, roughly, across the City.

A common complaint I hear is that folks who own homes that have been built new in the City pay a very large amount of taxes.  And indeed that is true!  However, those same people sometimes also say that this gives people no incentive to renovate or rebuild their homes.  While this is true to a point remember that the City has a fixed bill to pay.  So if the bars on the graph were shifted gradually to the left, then the amount collected from each of those higher priced homes could actually start to decrease because to get the same total amount of money you could charge less tax.

Right now,  the most numerous 4 brackets, the $100-150,000, $150-200, and $200-250, and $250-300 account for roughly $8.9 Million in tax revenue…. adding up all the rest is less than $3 Million.

So the current situation is (these are rough estimates, not exact numbers):

  • $100-150,000 — 1617 homes x $1190 average tax = $1,924,230
  • $150-200,000 — 2087 x $1611 = $3,362,157
  • $200-250,000 — 1159 x $2041 = $2,365,519
  • $250-300,000 — 496 x $2512 = $1,245,952
  • Total = 5359 homes produce $8,897,858 in taxes at 9.2555 tax rate.Lets say the average price of a home went from the current $189,000 to $220,000 and effectively pushed the distribution to the left on the chart… now numbers of homes in the top categories might be:
  • $100-150,000 — 1340 homes x $1190 average tax = $1,594,600
  • $150-200,000 — 1640 x $1611 = $2,642,040
  • $200-250,000 — 1640 x $2041 =  $3,347,240
  • $250-300,000 — 739 x $2512 = $1,856,368
  • Total = 5359 homes produce $9,440,248 at 9.2555 tax rate.

That shift in property assessments would increase revenues to the City by at least 6%… or, taken a different way, the same homes that generate $8.9 million in taxes now, could gather the same taxes with a 6% decrease of tax rates.

That is why, in my mind, efforts to improve the desirability of Port Alberni as a place to live are the most fruitful and provide a ‘multiplying effect’ when it comes to policy that would slow or reverse the ever increasing tax rates over time.

There has been a ton of information to absorb and there are a bunch more meetings.  Here’s a list of them, some times may change but this should be it:

Monday, March 9th
3:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – council review and direction

Monday, March 23rd
2:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – receipt of survey input/public input + Council direction

Monday, March 30th
3:00 p.m.
Special Meeting
Budget – final direction regarding budget – direction to staff to prepare Bylaw

Monday, April 13th
7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting
Introduction of Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw (3 readings)

Monday, April 20th
TBA
Adoption of Five Year Financial Plan Bylaw
Introduction of Tax Rates Bylaw (3 readings)

Monday, April 27th
7:00 p.m.
Regular Meeting
Adoption of Tax Rates Bylaw

Community Grants

A couple more things to mention in this post.  It was a wonderful feeling to be able to say yes to the $1700 request for a grant ($1600 in-kind help and $100 cash) from the folks putting on a Pride BBQ among other events on July 26th this year.  When I was in high school in the mid-90s at ADSS there was an instance where a student was ridiculed for wearing a dress to school.  It made the news.  Here’s hoping that the event in July will help address those kinds of misunderstandings.  We are all one community of amazing and unique people.  It’s good to be able to celebrate that diversity at every chance and for every reason we can.  You can join the Facebook Event group here.

If you’re wondering, here are the other recipients of the City’s Community Investment Program last year.  The Pride BBQ applied late so aren’t in the list below.

The totals are the cash grant amounts.  Many of the groups listed below also received in-kind grants worth anywhere from a few dollars to a over $1000.

  • Alberni Community & late Women’s Services request Society $500
  • Alberni District Fall Fair $500
  • Alberni Valley Curling $500
  • Alberni Valley Track $700 Club
  • Art Matters Society $400
  • Art Rave Society $3,500
  • AV Lions Club $451
  • Bread of Life $1,500
  • Community Arts $4,000
    Council of the Alberni
    Valley
  • Literacy Alberni $1,000 Society
  • Navy League of Canada $875
  • PA Volunteer Income $670 Tax Program
  • Port Alberni Family Guidance Association ($1500 of Bus and Rec Passes)
  • Port Alberni Multicultural Society $423
  • Port Alberni Salmon Festival $3,000
  • Port Alberni Toy Run $765
  • Port Alberni Youth Centre $450.00
  • Royal Canadian Legion $1,300
  • Special Olympics BC ‐ Port Alberni $1,000
  • Port Alberni Friendship Center $1,725
  • Rotary Club of Port Alberni $50
  • TheAbbeyfieldHouses Alberni Valley Society ‐ Abbeyfield Port Alberni $1,100

 Sewage Plants!

I would be terribly negligent if I didn’t include a mention for the very interesting and important Wastewater Advisory Committee (WAC) I attended with other councillors last week that is working on our Liquid Waste Management Plan.

This committee has been hard at work finalizing plans for the design of our new sewage treatment plant that will be using the former lagoons formerly used by Catalyst.  This will be a huge improvement in the treatment of our water compared to what we are putting into our Inlet and Estuary right now.

The meeting centred specifically around the design of the outfall pipe that will take the settled water from the ponds into the Inlet.

 

The Catalyst ponds are the larger dark ponds in the centre to the left of the river.  The current city sewage pond is the lighter coloured pond at the top.
The Catalyst ponds are the larger dark ponds in the centre to the left of the river. The current city sewage pond is the lighter coloured pond at the top.

The current city pond (light coloured pond at top centre) simply allows the treated water to sluice over the edges of the pond and directly into the estuary and river.  Ya.  Gross.

The New plant will use the much larger (dark) ponds to do a better job of aerated and settling out the sewer sludge and it will then be pumped past the bottom of the picture into a location nearer the middle of the harbour.

At first read, that might sound worse, but actually because the sewage will be much much better treated than it is now, and it will be dispersed under pressure in the water (sort of like a firehose), it will be much better diluted into the water in general and will be carried out of the harbour by the current.

The meeting last week centred around how that pipe would look.   The Ministry of Environment requires these pipes to be more than 10m under the surface.  However, there are two big problems with having the pipe on the bottom of the harbour.

#1:  There is a fibre mat (woody debris from decades of forestry operations) down there that is effectively locking in decades worth of toxic emissions from the pulp mill.  (back when the Harbour was literally black like coffee… it’s not anymore thankfully).  The research done on that fibre mat and those toxins say the absolute best thing is to just not touch it or disturb it in any way for fear of releasing the toxins into the water column.  A big sewage pipe blasting out water might risk doing that.

#2:  Salmon like to be down as deep as they can where it is nice and cool as they return to spawn.  A sewage pipe could warm that area, and also the treated sewage could cause microbes to flourish that might rob the water in that area of its oxygen, making it unsuitable for fish to live.  Also, the water moves much more slowly deep down, so the sewage would not wash out with the river water.

So the meeting was focused on deciding whether the pipe outlet should be deep, or shallow (around 3m).  The decision was made for it to be shallow as that would be best for our area. Again, the sewage that would come out of the pipe will be orders of magnitude cleaner than what is being fed into the river and harbour now.  So while it might seem a little yucky… it’s actually light years of improvement over the current situation.  And in time, we can work on making that outflow cleaner and cleaner without having to worry that we are harming the fish or stirring up toxic industrial sludge.

And that… my friends… is my report for today.

Have a great week!  See you at Council or the Budget meetings on Monday!