By Loni Parker
Director, Area B, The Columbia Shuswap Regional District
From recent discussions with new residents in the area, I think it might be helpful to give some information about the Columbia Shuswap Regional District in general before talking about the 2012 budget and the new Communications Coordinator.
In the mid-1960s, the Provincial Government set up the system of Regional Districts. The Regional District functions as a partnership of municipalities and electoral areas. The Columbia Shuswap Regional District covers four municipalities (Golden, Revelstoke, Sicamous and Salmon Arm) and six electoral areas – ‘A’ (Golden-Columbia), ‘B’ (Revelstoke-Columbia), ‘C’ (South Shuswap), ‘D’ (Falkland – Salmon Valley – Ranchero), ‘E’ (Sicamous-Malakwa), and ‘F’ (North Shuswap). There are 11 Directors on the CSRD Board and together we vote on issues pertaining to the region as a whole and to specific electoral areas. Area B encompasses the Columbia Valley from Mica Creek to the north and just south of Galena Bay, including the communities of Trout Lake, Beaton and Galena Bay.
2012 Budget and PILT
At our last Regional District board meeting we approved the 2012 Five Year Financial Plan. We ironed out the details at two prior full-day budget meetings. It’s really good news for the taxpayers as taxation is going up less than one percent (0.8), from $13 million to $13.1 million.
Overall, the Regional District budget is down 6.3 percent, from $37.3 million to $34.9 million. The reason taxation is going up even though the budget is less, is to cover the shortfall from other revenue sources including a substantial decrease of our annual grant from the Province.
In Area ‘B’, residents will benefit from the BC Hydro Payment-In-Lieu of Taxes [PILT] fund by seeing a substantial decrease in taxation for some services. Going back to 2010 the average residence paid $574 for their Parks and Recreation portion of taxes that we cost share with the City of Revelstoke. Along with the PILT contribution and the new agreement recently signed with the City there is a further reduction from $476 last year to $294 this year.
Also due to the PILT residents will see a 36% reduction this year compared to 2011 for our portion of Fire Protection services cost shared with the City.
At the end of the day, depending on individual BC Property Assessments, Area B residents should receive a slight reduction in the CSRD portion of tax this year.
This does not mean your total tax bill will go down. We have no control over Provincial taxes and an 18% tax increase is slated for the North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap Regional Hospital District this year. We have been put on notice that it is likely that there will be a further increase [up to 24%] for this service next year.
Many of you may have seen our notices that the CSRD will be fencing the Airport boundary area south of the Airport runway. We have been moving forward with improvements to our airport so that we can have scheduled Air Carrier service in the future and to that end the Airport Management Committee has looked at alternatives to enhance airport safety and security. Keeping the cost to taxpayers in mind we agreed to the lower cost option [under $18,000.00] for a short fence that restricts access just off of Airport Way rather than fence the south side of the runway [over $100,000. plus yearly maintenance]. This does not include fencing the north side. Clearly this is not a popular decision for those people who like to use the south area for recreational purposes but the decision was made on behalf of all taxpayers in Area B and the City of Revelstoke. While we haven’t had a serious incident to date it is prudent from a liability standpoint to protect our taxpayers.
Two Projects Supported
The CSRD Board of Directors approved funding in the amount of $10,000 to the Revelstoke Chamber of Commerce to upgrade its website. The funding comes from the Revelstoke and Area ‘B’ Economic Opportunity Fund. The Board also approved funding in the amount of $50,000 to assist with the expansion of the Revelstoke Firefighters Museum.
We have a new Communications Coordinator (Leah Blain) at the Regional District. This new position was created to help provide effective two-way communication between the CSRD and its residents. The Communications Coordinator sends press releases to the local media after Board meetings, or when other newsworthy issues arise. Some local organizations have already been contacted to see if they would like to be on the CSRD communications email list also.
If anyone or any group would like to be on the list, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and tell Leah that you would like to be included. You will get the same information that is sent to the media throughout the CSRD. This is really a cost-effective way of improving communications with area residents.
If you have any questions on these or other matters please call me at 250-837-5804.