The City of Nelson has struck an innovative set of arrangements with three Central Kootenay Regional District villages.
Salmo, Slocan and Silverton have entered into individual agreements that will see Nelson staff provide monthly and annual accounting services and budgetary planning assistance — efforts that will be of considerable benefit to the three villages and to Nelson.
The deals were struck in the hope of helping neighbouring municipalities tackle increasing public sector accounting requirements.
“This is very important for Slocan because as a small community we struggle,” said Village of Slocan Mayor Madeleine Perriere.
“Gathering all our finances under the umbrella of a bigger community will be a great solution for us.”
She explained when you have a community of 300 people, it is difficult to have all this services and to retain a chief financial officer.
“It’s very costly. Slocan is in a transition. We have lost our sawmill, so we are trying to reinvent ourselves and financially we have to be very careful. The more the province is demanding from us, the more expertise you need,” said Perrier who added that joining with Nelson is a great deal for Slocan.
Silverton Mayor Kathy Provan agreed, adding that the move will be more cost efficient than hiring an individual to perform the financial duties, something that has proven difficult to do. She said after being unable to hire a financial officer, Silverton was forced to look at other options. That led to a conversation with Nelson Mayor John Dooley and before long they were discussing if this arrangement was “doable.”
“Salmo and Slocan were in similar positions so that’s kind of where it started,” said Provan.
She feels other communities could benefit from this endeavour.
“I think this is a template — for other BC municipalities that are struggling with staffing and financial issues — to look at this and see how three small municipalities have been able to work with a bigger municipality,” said Provan.
By taking some of the financial duties from the villages, Nelson is helping the smaller areas examine other local issues.
“The Financial Services Agreement allows smaller municipalities to focus on the operations of our villages,” said Salmo Mayor Ann Henderson, “while having increasingly demanding reporting handled by a professional team.”
Dooley said the arrangement will give Salmo, Slocan and Silverton access to the city’s considerable financial expertise and resources, and all at a very affordable rate.
He also pointed out that city staff will not be assisting the villages in tasks like day-to-day financial services. They’ll ensure accounts are reconciled monthly, create year-end financial statements and audit file, and assist with the preparation of annual budgets and five year financial plans.
The mayor adds that income generated by the agreements will be used to cover any additional staffing requirements, should they be necessary.
He called it a good deal for Nelson.
“Some of the ideas we’ve had in the past have been how do we build capacity within our own organization? How do we maximize the resources that we have here?”
Dooley said the new project is allowing the city to do that and if it goes well over the next year, then the possibilities are endless. It could expand into areas like engineering, shared purchasing or even shared tendering.
“It’s about collaboration, it’s about regional cooperation and its about building capacity,” said Dooley.
Nelson chief financial officer Colin McClure said in the beginning there will be “up front” work — including quarterly updates, preparing financial statements and preparing five-year financial plans — but he believes once they get past that, and create the templates, this will go smoothly.
“Financial statements don’t usually change much year after year. It’s not like I’m starting from scratch, we have some templates that I believe will work for the villages. Not all of them of course.”
Because of their size, he said some of the work loads will be on a much smaller scale.
This article will appear in a coming edition of the West Kootenay Advertiser