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RDCK roundup: Budget passed by board

All the news from the March 15 board meeting
The Regional District of Central Kootenay board office in Nelson. File photo

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

With a few last-minute adjustments and a bit of debate, the board of directors finalized the Regional District of Central Kootenay’s 2023-27 five-year financial plan that also sets the tax bill for this fiscal year.

Overall, the RDCK is seeking an extra $3.9 million to operate this year, about 11.21 per cent more than last year.

However your bill will vary. The district is made up of a patchwork of service areas, and local areas cover much of the cost of their own recreation infrastructure, fire and emergency services, cemeteries, and other systems.

Here are the tax increases in the Nelson area: Area D (nine per cent), Area E (10.4 per cent), Area F (12.6 per cent), Area G (19.7 per cent), Area H (11.7 per cent), Kaslo (11.3 per cent), Nelson (7.1 per cent), Salmo (7.9 per cent), Slocan (19.1 per cent).

Even within those areas and communities, the percentage may vary – mostly, depending on how your property tax assessment rose or fell in relation to other properties in your area, and what local services you pay for.

For village dwellers, the RDCK tax requisition will be included in the municipal tax bill you’ll receive in the next four-to-six weeks; rural property owners will get their bills from the RDCK directly. Those bills will also include tax requests from the school district, police services, hospital district, and other governing bodies.

Money costs money

The regional government is going to get paid by the Columbia Basin Trust to administer one of its community funding programs for the next two years.

The Resident Directed (ReDi) Grant Program (formerly known as the Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Program) supports projects that benefit the broad community and public good through community-based decision-making, giving residents input on projects.

It is a welcome program, but RDCK directors recently raised the issue that it was costing the organization time and money to administer the program in the communities.

It’s not that they don’t appreciate the grant program, but directors said it was taking up serious amounts of staff time and resources to ensure community consultations were held and the supporting paperwork administered properly.

The RDCK will receive a total of $1,515,940 in each of the two years of the agreement, and will hold back $106,111, or seven per cent of the total, for administration. The other 93 per cent of the funding is distributed to more than 300 community groups across the Columbia Basin.

Nakusp area emergency response contract renewed

The RDCK is going to extend its contract with the Village of Nakusp to have it co-ordinate emergency planning and response in the Arrow Lakes area.

The board will pay the Village $20,000 to have Fire Chief Terry Warren manage emergency planning and response in co-ordination with other local agencies.

“Having a resource in Nakusp provides response capacity for the northwest portion of our region, including west of the Columbia,” a staff report notes. “Without this contract in place, our nearest resource would be a 2.5- to three-hour drive away from large areas of our region, or the RDCK would need to hire someone locally, which would not make sense financially.”

Warren’s assignment as emergency preparedness co-ordinator recognizes his years of local experience and knowledge of the area’s emergency resources, response providers and municipal leadership.

Candidates for FCM

The Regional District will put forward two names for consideration by the national organization that represents municipal governments.

Kaslo Mayor Suzan Hewat and Silverton councillor Leah Main were both endorsed by the board of directors to run for the executive body of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.

Main’s nomination generated some debate, as she is not the Silverton director on the RDCK board this year – a job that was assigned to the village mayor this term. However, she has sat on the FCM executive for several years from her previous stint as director, and is the chair of the B.C. caucus.

Directors in support of the nominations pointed out there are 70 people on the FCM executive, and outside of major cities, most rural areas have one – if any – members on the FCM governing body. That means the RDCK punches above its weight at the national table that sets policy and lobbies for municipal government needs. In the past, that’s meant having a say in things like the Gas Tax Fund, which has funnelled millions of dollars to municipal coffers over the last few years, bringing taxes down for major infrastructure projects.

If the two directors are elected to the executive, about half of their travel and participation costs are covered by the national body. That leaves about $4,000 for the RDCK to pay for each to attend.