The City of Merritt’s annual budget process is now well underway, delayed slightly by the city’s lack of a financial department head, flood recovery efforts, and a lack of finalized year end financials from 2022. 

At their Committee of the Whole meeting on April 18, Merritt’s city council started to look at the finer details of their 2023-2027 Financial Plan, including major projects and expenditures slated for this year. Current estimates would see between a 3 and 5 percent residential tax increase for Merritt residents, but those numbers are subject to change and final approval. The next budget meeting is scheduled for May 2, with the city’s final deadline for submitting the budget to the provincial government falling on May 15. 

Larger items in this year’s budget include a new Voght Street repaving project, after an initial two phase approach including two roundabouts was scrapped due to a lack of funding. The city is now looking at taking the $2.9 million it received from the Growing Communities Fund, plus water and sewer infrastructure reserve funds, for a total $5 million project that would have no roundabouts this time around, just new road and underground infrastructure, plus the addition of a multi-use path. Final details of the project are still subject to change and approval by council. 

Council chose at their most recent meeting to keep or move a number of budget items this year, including the planned Cleasby Street extension from Quilchena to Coldwater, which was pushed to 2024. Items such as a new $400,000 garbage truck, which will include a loan for its purchase, and the order of a new fire engine for a scheduled 2025 replacement were included in the budget this year. The city will also soon purchase an e-permitting software to speed up development applications following the go-ahead from council. 

Sean Smith, the city’s Chief Administrative Officer, told the Herald that the budget process has proven a big task, with staff and council balancing a number of shifting priorities and factors. 

“There is actual not a huge problem doing it with a new council, but when you stack new council on top of what has been a much more chaotic financial period with trying to merge recovery operations with normal normal municipal operations, I think that it’s a big task for Sheila, who’s on contract running our budget process for us, but also for council, to wrap your mind around what is functionally numbers that are twice as big as what they normally are,” commented Smith. 

“We’ve tried to split a lot of the recovery things out from the budget conversation as much as possible, because, while they’re going to need to get folded into the final budget bylaw, basically everything we’re doing on the recovery side is fully grant funded, or another source of funding. Ultimately, at this point, it’s not looking like those elements are going to be affected by taxation, or affect the tax rates, in any way.”

Smith added that the new council is an eager group that makes their thoughts heard, despite only two current elected officials having previous budget experience. Mayor Mike Goetz expressed his frustration with the process’s slow movement during the last budget meeting, suggesting that council look at items line by line and raise their concerns with line items, which was quickly settled on. 

The city’s Director of Finance position has been vacant for some time, with Norman Thompson and Sheila Theissen filling in on contract basis. Thiessen, who is running the budget process, previously held the role on a permanent basis before retiring. She told the Herald that while the budget process has been delayed, council has been well aligned in their priorities, and the city is in a competitive position with its proposed 3 to 5 percent tax increase compared to similar sized municipalities. 

“I’ve been talking to council about setting the tax rate, because we have one opportunity to do that,” said Thiessen. 

“If we get grant funding, or anything else comes up during the year, they can always amend the budget. We’re just going to try and get a good, clean start at it, and get the tax rate set at something that council is comfortable with.”

The next budget meeting will take place on May 2 at 6:00 p.m. in the council chambers, with most of council and the mayor away at the Southern Interior Local Government Association (SILGA) conference in Vernon this week. 

For more information on the budgeting process, including proposed projects and opportunities for public input, visit