The CSWM passed a budget with a reduction in the tax requsition of $1 million for the year. Black Press file photo

The CSWM passed a budget with a reduction in the tax requsition of $1 million for the year. Black Press file photo

Comox-Strathcona board passes solid waste budget with $1 million tax cut

Tipping fees will stay the same, and surplus money will be put into reserve

The body that oversees solid waste for the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts will be charging area property owners $1 million less in taxes for the coming year.

Comox Strathcona Waste Management’s board finalized its annual budget at the March 11 meeting.

Staff had presented earlier drafts to the board in late 2020 and early 2021 for input prior to Thursday’s meeting.

“This is the final version for this year’s financial plan,” Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services, told the board. “There were no changes requested by the board at the last meeting.”

RELATED STORY: Tax requisition same, tip fees up for solid waste

The plan includes a reduction of the tax requisition, from $6 million down to $5 million, or $80 on a $500,000 home. The reduction, staff expect, will be sustainable through all five years of the plan.

As well, staff recommended keeping the tipping fees at $140 per tonne and reviewing the fee in future years. There will be no new staff positions in 2021 and operating costs will be reduced this year by $447,000, with savings being allocated to reserve funds. However, CSWM expects an increase in operating costs next year with the implementation of the new organics program.

There is also a surplus of roughly $1.6 million from 2020, which resulted from greater tipping fee revenue and reduced costs as a response to COVID.

“That surplus has been allocated to [the] closure reserve fund,” Rutten said.

Staff also some made some minor adjustments due to support services coming in lower than expected while some expenses on equipment are being carried forward.

There are no new projects in the capital plan for this year. Future three long-term projects will be the coming organics program, the related closure of the Campbell River landfill and Cell 2 design and construction at the Comox Valley Waste Management Centre.

Reserves, Rutten said, are nearing $25 million, though CSWM will be drawing from them in coming years to cover some of the capital projects before these start to grow again around 2026-2027.

“Our reserves are very healthy right now,” he said.

Board member Brenda Leigh, one of the Strathcona area directors, asked whether use of the reserves was restricted. She cited concerns with reserves for the Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District that were supposed to be restricted but now appeared to be open to discretionary use for projects outside the board’s mandate.

“I understood those to be restricted reserves,” she said.

Rutten responded that one of the CSWM reserves can be used broadly, but the other funds are restricted for particular uses, such as the landfill closure.

After the presentation, the board passed recommendation supporting the financial plan, with only board member Jim Abram voting in opposition.

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