By Loni Parker
At the last Regional District board meeting we passed a bylaw to adopt our budget for 2011. We started our budget process months ago with the goal to keep any increases to a minimum and were successful across the board. The process we undertook this year was very comprehensive and I believe all members of the board were satisfied with the end result.
Over the past months we have had very detailed discussions on the budget and the process itself. One issue was concern over cost allocations by the electoral areas and the municipalities. To deal with this issue a cost allocation plan was developed and this plan was central to the budget process. I believe strongly that fairness is the most important aspect regarding budgets and I have argued for many years that in order for fairness to be achieved the BC Hydro Payment–In-Lieu [PILT] of taxes must also be taken into consideration. The PILT is essentially a payment in lieu of taxes on the Mica Dam. Although the dam is situated in Area B of the CSRD the payment has been dispersed throughout the whole of the CSRD with very little of the payment actually going to Area B.
When the PILT was initiated it was decided by the CSRD Board of the day that 60% would go to general government with 40% going to the affected areas of Revelstoke and Area B, Golden and Area A and Sicamous and Area E. Of that 40% it was decided that 40% would go the Revelstoke and Area B, 40% to Golden and Area A and 20% to Sicamous and Area E in the form of grants for economic opportunity.
Our three Areas and Municipalities have tried unsuccessfully in the past to have this formula changed but have always met with opposition from the Shuswap directors and been unable to secure enough votes to effect any change. We were successful in shifting some of the funding to our areas when we changed our Solid Waste Management system from taxation to tipping fees but it is still a long ways from being fair.
During this budget process I have argued to fix this inequity and was successful with a minor change but this still left Area B largely out of the equation until 2013 even though the facility is located in our Area. As many of you may have heard I brought forward an amendment to the draft budget at the February Board meeting and was unsuccessful in securing the requested benefits to Area B.
Area B is most affected by dams and due to the formula is the Area that gets the least benefit and that is inherently unfair. It has been a struggle to find a way to address this inequity but I am pleased that finally at the last board meeting all directors voted in favour of my amendment that shifts $72,724.00 from the three BC Hydro Economic Opportunity Funds to Area B. This could not have happened without the support of Revelstoke, Golden, Sicamous and Areas A and E.
With this change to our policy Area B will see $36,362.00 being allocated towards Fire Protection services and an equal amount applied towards Area B Parks and Recreation. Both of these services are provided by the City of Revelstoke on a cost sharing basis. Our total budget including the Okanagan Regional Library is $715,684.00
The Area B budget had a 0% increase this year before the amendment and with this change most residents should see a reduction to their taxes. I am committed to ensuring that we continue to shift more of the PILT to Area B and hopefully we will continue to see a gradual reduction to our taxes over the next five years.
Loni Parker is the director responsible for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s Area B