The Queen Charlotte management committee will be dipping into its budget surplus this year to pay for some extraordinary water system maintenance costs.
As of November 31, water maintenance costs are $46559.1: $14,559.11 above the $32,000 budgeted.
The biggest bill this year has been just over $17,000 to pay for repairs to well #3. The lining of the well had to be replaced as well as the pump. Another unexpected bill for about $6,000 arrived when a contractor invoiced the committee early in 2004 for work done in 2002 and 2003.
The committee had to pay about $2,000 for safety equipment required by the Workers’ Compensation Board. The water treatment plant’s heat exchanger had to be replaced at a cost of about $3,000. And several large leaks have been repaired this year at a cost of about $4,000.
Office manager Debra Uliana works with the committee each December to create a budget, estimating the amount needed for different things by averaging previous year’s expenses. Ms Uliana budgeted $32,000 for this year’s maintenance costs by averaging the costs from 2000 to 2003.
Over the last four years, there has been considerable variation in the amount of money needed to maintain the system. Last year, the committee spent about $60,000 for water maintenance, $12,000 of which was vandalism repairs. The previous year the committee spent about $28,000. Ms Uliana said that the costs were low that year, because that’s when the line looping was done with a Gwaii Trust grant, and a lot of routine maintenance didn’t have to be done because repairs were made as part of the looping process.
Prior to that the committee spent about $30,000 in 2001 and about $25,000 in 2000. Those figures seemed low to her, and she speculated that the regional district might have paid some of those expenses directly, but she isn’t sure because she wasn’t in the management committee office at that time.
The 2004 budget has a $262,318 surplus, which is more than enough to absorb the extra money spent on water maintenance. The surplus is high this year, because the money is needed to match grant money from the federal and provincial governments for work being done to the water system. However, Ms Uliana said there is always a surplus.
“We have a budget every year, but we don’t spend it because some special projects don’t get done,” said Ms Uliana. “When a surplus exists, it is carried forward from past years.”
Each year, when the budget is written, the regional district board, administrator and auditor decide how much of the surplus to keep available and how much to put into a reserve account protected by bylaws and available only for capital projects.
Although users won’t have to pay for the maintenance budget’s extra expenses, users should expect the cost of maintaining the system to go up because it is aging, said Ms Uliana. Whether that will mean a fee increase is impossible to know, she said. So far, the committee has managed to use grants from the Gwaii Trust and other levels of government to do major work on the system, said Ms Uliana.
Right now the committee has no plans to increase user fees to pay for the Queen Charlotte water system, said Ms Uliana.
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