Property owners in District of Clearwater face a mill rate increase of 12 per cent in the 2012 budget.
That’s according to a report from chief administrative officer Leslie Groulx and director of finance Sheila Thiessen made during a public information meeting on the budget held last Tuesday evening.
Property assessments in Clearwater went down by 1.2 per cent in 2010 and by another 1.89 per cent in 2011, the report said.
The decrease in assessments was tied to the decline in the local economy.
Mindful of that economic decline, town council decreased the mill rates on top of the decreasing assessments.
To some extent that shortfall was covered by grants from other levels of government.
However, grant funding is not a consistent source of revenue, Thiessen pointed out.
Clearwater will take over road maintenance in the fall of 2013. The municipality needs to ensure its reserves are adequate for the task.
Mayor John Harwood noted that when the new municipality took over from the former Clearwater Improvement District it found it was not in a negative financial position.
“We were one of the few with a surplus and no high debt,” he said.
Major projects, such as the planned upgrades to the Sportsplex, will be funded through grants from other levels of government and from accumulated reserves. No tax increases will be needed.
Harwood noted that Clearwater and District Minor Hockey donated $5,000 it had won from Delissio Pizza towards the ice arena upgrades.
“We’re fortunate that that’s the kind of community we live in,” he said.
Swimming pool a possibility
When asked about a swimming pool for Clearwater, the mayor said that it “absolutely” was a possibility.
Technology has advanced since the last time it was proposed, he said. Heating, which would be a major cost, could now be done more economically through solar energy or use of waste heat from ice-making.
If a new major industry came into the area then the pool proposal likely would be looked at again.
Harwood said he was surprised local seniors hadn’t supported the pool proposal more when it last went to referendum.
Finding more doctors
On the topic of doctor recruitment, councilor Shelly Sim said they recently had learned that Interior Health had gone 12 to 18 months without filling the position of the person responsible for that task.
That job is now filled but with 140 communities in IHA, Clearwater should not assume it’s at the top of the priority list.
Sim said she planned to attend a national conference for rural physicians in Whistler at the end of the month to work on recruitment. Cost of a booth at the conference would be shared with several other communities.
“IHA never used to be involved. Doctors recruited doctors,” said Mayor Harwood.
He said Clearwater has been fortunate in the quality of temporary doctors or locums it has been able to attract. This has been a major factor in keeping the emergency room at Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital open.
However, some of those locums are retiring and it will be three or four years before the doubling of the size of the classes in B.C.’s medical schools has an effect.
The BC College of Physicians and Surgeons should make it easier for Canadians who study medicine overseas to return and practice here, he said.
Harwood also said he would like to see physicians from overseas do residencies in Clearwater to qualify to practice in B.C.