Qualicum Beach budgets for the increases in fees we will see in 2016

Hydro, medical services plan, auto insurance — many fees are going up this year

While increasing fees and costs may hit residents, the effect of increases in electricity, auto insurance, ferries, medical premiums and land value assessments doesn’t have as much of a direct impact on the Town of Qualicum Beach.

Qualicum Beach financial officer John Marsh said though staff always do a mid-year budget adjustment to account for actual costs and changes, the town has already set their 2016 budget with the same 2.5 per cent inflationary increase they have averaged in recent years. (The new fire hall added an extra one per cent the last few years).

Marsh said inflation isn’t as simple a formula as many believe, with a hundred different types of baskets of goods and services used to calculate the average costs and changes year to year.

“The cost of living environment for a municipality is different than the cost of living changes for individuals,” he said.

He said that because wages account for more than half of the town’s costs, a change in vehicle costs may not have nearly the budget impact of some behind-the-scenes change to safety or paperwork regulations that add staff time to projects. “MSP does have an effect, but Worksafe changes on regulations can have a much bigger impact.”

Depending on income and family size, MSP (medical premiums) rose January 1 in B.C., adding $5.50 per month for an average couple to a monthly maximum of $266.

B.C. Ferries will raise fares 1.9 per cent in each of the next four years, starting in April. ICBC has been approved for a rate increase of 5.5 per cent and B.C. Hydro — which increased six per cent in 2015 — is planning to increase four per cent in 2016, and 3.5 per cent next year.

Meanwhile B.C. still has the highest average gas cost in the country (1.13), the cost of groceries went up 5.3 per cent in B.C. last year and post-secondary tuition is expected to increase an average of 15 per cent this year, according to CBC.ca.

Marsh said these types of expenses tend to average out across a large organization like a municipality and are usually known in time to account for in their budget. He reiterated that changes in requirements for how they track and manage assets coming next year will likely have a bigger impact.

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