Solid waste requirements and 911 service improvements helped drive a $3.3 million increase to this year's regional district budget.
The board of directors approved the $32.6 million operating budget for the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George Thursday afternoon, which includes a 911 radio equipment replacement project worth $1 million, funded through reserves.
Another $1.4 million in added spending was approved to cover the associated costs with taking on the operation of the Quinn Street and Vanway transfer stations from the city of Prince George, as well as saving for the eventual closure of the Foothills landfill site.
Of the total budget to operate the regional district's 86 services, $17.4 million will be covered through property taxation, which is an increase of $336,000 over 2012.
In Prince George, the average homeowner will pay $69.19 per $100,000 of assessed value to the regional district on their property tax bill or approximately $151.
On the upper end of the requisition spectrum, McBride residents are on the hook for $473.74 per $100,000 of assessed home value - approximately $562.75.
"When you look at the requisition levels, there's a lot of investment going on in the local communities and that's why a number of the increases are a little larger than others," explained board chair Art Kaehn. "Other than, unfortunately, the village of McBride - and that's more the result of the value of their homes changing in the past year - the increase has been close to the annual inflation rate that's occurring out there."
Property assessments increased by 14 per cent this year in McBride.
"We've had success in finding other sources of revenue to fund the majority of the budget increase this year," said Kaehn. "So we've been able to move forward on some major initiatives without a significant impact on taxes."
Coun. Dave Wilbur said he was fully in support of the decision to begin implementing a gate fee at the Foothills landfill.
"There's just common sense in that when you consider those that use should pay rather than be burdened or impressed into a levy on everybody," he said. "Now, there's going to be the need for the continuing levy, but that's not going to be as deep as it would have been had it not been for the implementation of user pay."
The conflict of interest-induced carousel returned to the RDFFG boardroom as the group of directors passed their 2013 budget.
Due to a January B.C. Court of Appeal ruling regarding elected officials and their involvement with non-profits, six directors either vacated or turned their seats over to an alternate for the vote on the budget and five-year financial plan.
Directors Bill Empey, Ken Starchuck, Lara Beckett, Murry Krause, Andru McCracken and chair Kaehn all recused themselves from the decision due to a variety of affiliations on boards of not-for-profit groups.
Valemount mayor McCracken stepped out due to his affiliation with the Valemount community television station, a group he said was close to his heart and one he didn't want to have to leave.
"I'm happy to step down [from the budget vote] but I'm sorry we have to miss the financial plan bylaws," he said.
Area G director Terry Burgess commented on the "circus" that has come to pass and chose to stay and vote despite his connection with the Huble Homestead/Giscome Portage Heritage Society.
Regional district board vice-chair Wilbur assumed Kaehn's position for the vote, explaining he had gone back over the court decision numerous times and consulted with others before determining he would vote despite being a director at large for the North Central Local Government Association.
"In my mind, support of a broad regional organization like the NCLGA does not visit upon a mere director at large, any pecuniary [financial] interest," he said. "I decided, even though there is an arguable risk, not to step out of my seat because it would have meant the seat would have been vacant."
Wilbur's alternate for the board is Coun. Garth Frizzell, who sits on the board for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. "So he would have had the same dilemma and it would have been a revolving empty chair."
Kaehn said all the alternate directors were briefed on the budget issues prior to the vote.