Village of McBride office. / McBride

Village of McBride municipal office. (Village of McBride)

By Abigail Popple, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, RMG

On February 20th, the McBride Village Council held a meeting of the Committee of the Whole to discuss drafts of the Village’s 2024 Operational and Capital budgets.

While the revenues and expenditures in the draft budgets are subject to change, the Village is currently looking at a significant deficit, explained Chief Financial Officer Sandy Salt.

“We are going to have to do some really serious thinking on items, to see where we can cut [expenditures] or try and increase revenues,” Salt told the council. “Because at the end […] we are in a large deficit.”

The Village must have a balanced budget, Salt explained — it may need to tap into its surplus funds to balance the budget if increasing revenue or decreasing spending is not possible. Salt said she is consulting with auditors to identify how much unrestricted funds are in surplus.

Of particular concern is the Village’s Water Operating Budget. Crumbling water pipes, on top of the regular cost of maintaining hydrants and other water-related infrastructure, are contributing to just over $200K in projected expenses.

“I felt quite ill when I saw the deficit,” Salt said of the water operating budget. Expenses have exceeded revenues for the water operating system for the past three years, so there are no surplus funds in the water operating budget for the Village to draw upon, she explained.

She attributes a large part of the deficit to wage increases among management and unionized staff.
“There’s going to be a lot of fine tuning to be done,” Salt said. She suggested that council consider cutting village staff.

Additionally, with the end of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project, the Village can expect to see less revenue from its sewage system, Salt said. In 2023, lagoon user fees came out to over $20K, and they were just over $16K the year prior. A large part of why lagoon use generated so much revenue in previous years was because of the pipeline project, Salt said, so for 2024, she has projected just $12K in revenue.

While the Village will be receiving $45,082 in revenue from the Province’s Local Government Climate Action Program, some of that money will be going towards covering costs from last year, Salt said. For example, that revenue will pay for the cost of hiring a hydrologist to examine new drilling spots in Dominion Creek. Salt also said that this is the last year of the program, so that money will not be budgeted in 2025.

Some costs have been cut: Salt has eliminated the Village’s COVID-19 budget of $500, which had gone towards covering personal protective equipment. She is also considering tightening the budget for public works, though she anticipates a “tug-of-war” with the public works manager over the issue.

Mayor Eugene Runtz called the meeting to a close at 3:14 p.m. Council will have another Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the 2024 budget on March 19th; there will be a public consultation meeting on April 16th, where the budget will be presented for feedback from members of the public online and in-person.