By Steve Hubrecht 

[email protected] 

The District of Invermere has its budget in place for the coming year.

The budget outlines revenues of $13.1 million and expenses of $12.4 million, for an annual surplus of $686,000.

At a council meeting earlier this winter, council approved a few last-minute tweaks to the budget. These included updating the estimated price for the Fort Point bridge over the Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) rail tracks to $5 million.

A public survey on the budget resulted in 84 responses, which provided mixed answers to several questions. Asked what is the main issue facing Invermere and what should receive the most attention, more than 25 people responded that it is a lack of affordable housing and long term rentals (several of them termed it “the housing crisis”); while nearly 20 respondents said that it is aging infrastructure (paving, roads, water and sewer system). 

A couple of people suggested it was the absence of a community recreation facility (which one suggested should include a pool). Other topics raised included climate change resilience and mitigation, better public transportation in town, better sidewalks, and better relationships with local First Nations.

Another question in the survey asked if respondents thought there was enough affordable housing in the community. 

A total of 92 per cent said no.  In fact, almost 33 per cent of respondents said the lack of affordable housing in the district has made them consider leaving Invermere.

In another question, 64 per cent of respondents were in favour of the district offering developers an increase in density if they guarantee a certain amount of affordable housing units in a project. 

Nearly 66 per cent liked the idea of the district offering incentives to help create secondary suites.

While the questions mentioned above dealt with affordable housing in general, the survey  also touched on staff housing, asking respondents if they think it is the District of Invermere’s responsibility to help create workforce housing for employers within Invermere. Some 30 per cent said yes, 60 per cent said no, and 10 per cent were unsure.

In terms of infrastructure improvements, 66.6 per cent of respondents said they were willing to pay higher utility fees for municipal water, sewer and wastewater treatment to fund future capital improvements to those systems.

Only 67 of the 84 respondents answered the questions on the Invermere Integrated Community Sustainability Plan, and of those only 12 indicated they were pretty familiar (level 4 or 5, out of a possible 5) with the plan. Perhaps not coincidentally only 12 respondents indicated fairly high levels of support (level 4 or 5 out of 5) for increasing taxes to implement parts of the Imagine Invermere Integrated Community Sustainability Plan or other sustainability programs. Asked how much of a tax increase they personally would be willing to pay for such programs, respondents gave answers ranging from no money up to $500.