Abbotsford city budget: Separating wants from needs

City council hopes to finalize a 2012 budget by the beginning of March.

Abbotsford council and city staff discuss budget.

Abbotsford council and city staff discuss budget.

Abbotsford’s new council wants to separate wants from needs in order to create a leaner budget.

During a special executive meeting, local politicians and staff focused on capital projects and utilities in order to shape a new 2012 financial plan.

Jim Gordon, Abbotsford’s general manager of engineering and regional utilities, presented a proposed $6.95-million road resurfacing plan for 2012 that would allow 50 lane kilometres to be repaired at a cost of approximately $139,000 per kilometre.

“It’s very important that we maintain that infrastructure at the optimal time. If we let it deteriorate … we are faced with total road reconstruction and our costs could be 10 times as much,” said Gordon.

Other expected yearly capital expenditures include close to $7 million to replace city service vehicles (garbage trucks, mowers, tractor, sweepers, etc.) and the replacement of Fire Hall 6 on West Railway. The expectation is to spend $300,000 to prepare the site and plan the new building in 2012 and another $6 million to construct it in 2013.

A proposed urban trail, community park and the completion of the new library at Abbotsford Collegiate are other examples of capital expenditures.

“The problem that we have is, even though we may have money in the DCC (development cost charges) funds to go and develop parks or trails, we actually can’t afford to maintain them … I see a similar pattern everywhere. We are going to have to have a serious look on our expenditure side,” said Coun. Henry Braun.

The urban trail, which was set to cost $3.3 million, was put on hold last week by councillors, who wanted to see if the funds could be used for more important priority projects.

Water, sewer and solid waste fees will likely all rise in 2012. The proposed increases would see the average Abbotsford home pay $862 per year ($385 for water, $257 sewer and $220 waste) compared to the 2011 average of $810 ($349 water, $246 sewer and $215 waste).

All of these proposals are preliminary budget discussions, none of which have been approved by council.

City manager Frank Pizzuto suggested a percentage plan which would show council what could be accomplished with various different tax scenarios including no tax increase for 2012, a one per cent increase, two per cent or more.

More discussion is being planned, and council hopes to finalize a 2012 budget by the beginning of March.