Town budget needs more work

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 22, 2024

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There hasn’t been a final vote taken yet on the Town of Victoria’s budget. And for that, you can thank a problem with the water bill.

Late last month and earlier in May, the Town of Victoria issued a proposed budget notice of $2.42 million. That’s what ran in The Dispatch and what was announced elsewhere. But that turns out not to be correct. The town accidentally left off one fund. Instead, according to Victoria Town Manager Rodney Newton, the proposed budget comes out to $2.521 million. He outlined some budget issues during the town council’s Tuesday, May 14 meeting, with the group also voting on changes involving trash.

Most of the prices in the various funds have spiked, as we reported last time around. For example, back in fiscal year 2022, the overall budget stood at $2.1 million, with just $719,970 needed in the water fund. This year, the proposed water fund stands at $766,200. For those following on a year to year basis, that’s a 4.75% increase over last year.

So what’s that for? Why is the cost spiking? Prices are skyrocketing when it comes to anything involving water treatment. For example, the chemical chlorine is used to eliminate bacteria, kill mold and cut down on odor in water. The price of chlorine has spiked 56.5% over the last year. Sodium Fluoride, meanwhile, used in water to prevent tooth decay, has gone up in price 240%. That’s because the mineral at the heart of sodium fluoride, fluorspar, has been harder to find. As more and more countries allowed industries to fully reopen over the last two years, there was a dramatic spike in orders. A shrinking supply and rising demand led to the dramatic increase in price. Other parts of the water treatment process have also climbed in price, with soda ash up 40% and the chemical delpac, which reduces sludge, going up 52%.


One thing Newton recommended with the proposed budget was an increase in the water rate. Currently, that stands at $31.50 for every 3,000 gallons of water used. Newton suggests bringing that up to $35 for every 3,000. And for those asking, it hasn’t been that long since the last water rate increase, as it went up from $30.50 to $31.50 in fiscal year 2023.

That’s not even as high as it should go, Newton said. Just to cover inflation, the rate should be $37.28 for every 3,000 gallons. The water rate is the only part of the utility bill that Newton said he recommended changing.

In addition, what got left off the original notice was a new charge for the coming fiscal year. The Town of Victoria will now have to start paying for commercial trash that staff dumps at the Lunenburg Landfill. Both the towns of Kenbridge and Victoria have been notified that they’re currently not in compliance with the host agreement with Meridian Waste in the county. Basically, the rules haven’t been followed. From now on, if the towns continue to dump commercial trash at the landfill, there will be a tipping fee charged. To be clear, this will apply to all businesses in town that trash service is provided for. On average, Newton estimated that the Town of Victoria produces between 3 to 5 tons of trash weekly from commercial customers. That costs $30 a ton. If you estimate on the high end, let’s say sticking with a 5-ton average, that adds up to an extra $7,800 needed each year. The Town of Kenbridge, meanwhile, has a 4-tiered set rate for commercial customers. For Victoria, Newton suggested that commercial customers who use two 95-gallon cans or less to just pay $25 each time. For any customers that use three 95-gallon vehicles, it’ll be $37.50 per month. And finally, for anyone using four 95-gallon trash bags or more, the price would be $150 each month. Town council members agreed to add this to next month’s meeting for a vote.


As we mentioned, the water fund is one of three main parts of this year’s budget. The other two are the general fund and the sewer fund. For the sewer fund, nothing much changes. The proposed budget puts it at $647,200, same as last year.

And the third major portion, the proposed general fund, is overall down from last year. It stands at $950,000, which is down an estimated 2%. But while the overall proposed general fund is down from last year, several departments would see an increase if this gets approved. For example, the police department would get a $385,675 budget, which factors in raises to help with police officer retention. Victoria Fire and Rescue would get $116,000 in the new budget, which covers the need to replace some turnout gear and other apparatus.

Also in the budget, thanks to an expected $30,000 in meals tax revenue and $6,600 in miscellaneous revenue, the town’s Parks and Recreation Department would get a $36,600 budget. That would include $1,500 for trail upkeep, $5,000 for park equipment, $7,100 for entertainment costs and $12,500 for repairs and supplies, among other items. The town pool would also get a $19,000 budget, balanced off an expected $16,000 in passes, $2,000 in concessions and $1,000 from special events.


Council members agreed to take a final vote on the budget during their Tuesday, June 11 scheduled meeting. They’ll also take an official vote on the proposed trash fee.