We'd like your feedback on the draft 2017 - 2021 Financial Plan, which contains our proposed operating and capital budgets and the proposed tax increase for 2017.
Ways you can get involved:
- View the presentation from the Public Open House on February 27, 2017
- Read the Five Year Financial Plan
- Read the Manager of Finance's Report to Council dated January 23, 2017
- Read the FAQs below and submit your own question
- Subscribe to our mailing list to get news and updates from Municipal Hall
Have questions or want to submit your feedback? Please contact:
Kristen Watson, Manager of Finance
981 Artisan Lane, Bowen Island
Frequently asked questions
Why do we have a property tax increase? How much is it?
For 2017, an effective property tax increase of 2.5% is recommended by staff in order to pay for increasing costs of services and additional contributions to reserve funds.
Bowen Island Municipality (BIM) has a Budgeting Guidelines and Financial Policy in place which requires that Council raise taxes by a minimum of 1.5% each year in order to increase the annual contribution to the Municipality’s Capital Renewal and Reserve Fund. This fund has been established to set aside money to pay for the continual renewal and replacement of the Municipality’s significant infrastructure and equipment assets.
This year’s recommended effective increase is 2.5%, which translates to an overall increase of $141,000 of additional revenue. This money is required to pay for an additional $60,000 contribution to the Capital Renewal and Reserve Fund, approximately $30,000 to implement the Emergency Planner Co-ordinator position, $15,000 budgeted to train new staff in the Building and Planning Department, $10,000 required for information technology, and other smaller increases to several other departmental budgets resulting from inflation, contractual rent increases and increases to salaries, benefits and training.
How will an effective increase of 2.5% affect my tax bill?
While the overall effective property tax increase is 2.5%, individual experiences may vary. BC Assessment reports that most property owners experienced an increase in property value of between 25-30%. If your property increased along with the average, then your particular experience should be a property tax increase of about 2.5%. However if your property increased significantly more than 30%, than your property taxes will go up more than the average. See the chart below to assess the impact on a property worth $960,000 – the average home price on Bowen this year!
How does our tax increase compare to proposed increases in other communities?
Bowen Island’s proposed effective 2.5% increase compares favourably to many other Greater Vancouver municipalities including:
Port Moody 5.1%
District of North Vancouver 3%
City of North Vancouver 3.4%
West Vancouver 4.85%
What are reserves and why do we have them?
The Municipality establishes reserve funds as a means to accumulate savings towards a specific goal or to support maintenance and renewal of capital assets. The Municipality structures its budget so as to contribute a constant amount to reserve funding over time, and uses that fund to pull from when making expenditures in support of a project or capital asset acquisition. By keeping annual contributions to reserves consistent from year to year, drawing down from them when making expenditures, the Municipality ensures that property tax rates do not need to fluctuate wildly.
Additionally, the Municipality uses its reserve funds to act as a source of working capital: as a way to pay the bills during the first half of the year, because property taxes are not collected until July 1 or later.
Lastly, building reserves are a means to develop financial resiliency against unexpected or unusual costly events that could result in significant financial expense to the community.
When is a borrowing referendum required?
A borrowing referendum is required if the Municipality wishes to incur a debt which extends over a period in excess of five years. In this five-year plan, the Municipality would be required to hold a referendum to proceed with a fire hall or a community centre.
Staff levels seem high. Why is that?
BIM employs the staff it needs to deliver the services that it is legally required to deliver and those that have been authorized by Council. The basket of services provided from municipality to municipality varies greatly. Because we live on an island, BIM is unable to share the provision of most services with surrounding municipalities, and must rely on providing its own services. For example, water and sewer cannot be procured from the regional district, so BIM employs its own staff. Many municipalities choose to contract out service provision to a third party. BIM does, too, contracting out the solid waste and sewer operations, but given our limited options for service providers on Bowen Island, we often have to bring these services in house.
Without a clear understanding of the services provided directly by each municipality, it is difficult to make clear comparisons, or draw any conclusions from the number of staff employed by similar-sized municipalities.
How does the Municipality ensure it gets value for money?
The Municipality’s purchasing policy requires management to obtain a minimum of three quotations when procuring goods in excess of $2,000. When contracting for professional services, an RFP must be undertaken for contracts in excess of $5,000. Any contract worth in excess of $50,000 must be tendered publicly, and the contract must be awarded by Council.
Why plan for five years? Won’t things change?
Things do change over the five-year planning period, but the Community Charter requires that municipalities plan for a minimum of five years. The plan is updated with new information each year. The inclusion of five years in the budget period is an effective means to show what kind of expenditures may be contemplated in the near future, and just what the expected impact of new debt or service level increases will be in the future.
Are we in good shape?
Yes and no. Like most other municipalities, Bowen Island faces significant challenges in paying for replacement of its considerable network of infrastructure assets. It can be hard to assess the condition and likelihood of failure of many of these assets, because they are buried underground, such as water pipes, culverts and road base.
As such, it is difficult to accurately determine just when our infrastructure assets will require replacement, and just how much it will cost at that time.
As a means to improve the data, the Municipality is undertaking a large project to develop an asset management plan which will help to answer these questions. Once complete, the Municipality will better understand just how much money is needed each year to be saved in reserve funds to ensure adequate money is available in future years to pay for these renewal and replacement costs.
In the interim, the Municipality makes dedicated contributions and increases these contributions by a minimum of 1.5% each year to work towards the goal of long-term financial resiliency.