With the new fire hall opening this year, Qualicum Beach had some big expenses, but the town says it is solid financially, including some wage relief from the labour lockout.
“We’re quite a bit under and we’ve been gaining all year,” Financial Officer John Marsh told town council on Monday.
He said the town has spent $7.8 million of its $10.8 million, 2015 budget. “That’s 72.7 per cent of the budget even though we’re about 83 per cent of the way though the year,” he said, meaning they are on track to be around $1 million under budget this year.
He attributed the surplus mostly to the strategic plan’s focus on infrastructure. He said the town has been saving money on operations to pay for infrastructure.
He said, for example, the town recently moved half a million dollars from operations to capital in their ongoing 2016 budget deliberations.
Marsh was hesitant to give details on the summer’s labour dispute and five-week lockout, pointing out the costs can take a long time to sort out as they receive bills and sort out complications like employees receiving vacation pay during that period.
Adding that it was never one of their considerations, the town saved about $250,000 in wages and $100,000 in other costs associated with work, like fuel and supplies.
The town’s reserves dropped from about $3.7 million to $2.7 million this year, mostly due to $1.5 million going toward the new fire hall over the last couple years. The rest of the $6.6 million fire hall budget came from a $400,000 federal grant and $4.6 million in borrowing, which will cost the town $500,000 a year for ten years.
He said the hall cost more than the most often quoted $6.5 million total due to the Green Municipal Fund grant, which required the inclusion of $114,000 worth of solar panels.
The large surplus is important for the town to deal with emergencies and allows them more flexibility for things like starting large infrastructure projects when or if other money becomes available, Marsh said, referencing the new federal Liberal government’s election promises.
With council determining the priority of upcoming projects, he said they have at least two “shovel ready” projects that could be started quickly, namely $5 million in upgrades to Memorial Avenue between downtown and the waterfront, and a $1 million roundabout on Highway 19A in Eaglecrest.
Council plans to pass its 2016 budget in December.