The regional district has avoided any major tax increase this year. Chair John Kettle (below) says surpluses helped.

Regional district holds the line on taxes

The Regional District of Central Kootenay board unanimously adopted its 2012 budget Thursday with a negligible property tax increase.

The Regional District of Central Kootenay board unanimously adopted its 2012 budget Thursday with a negligible property tax increase.

Only an additional $6,000 will be raised through taxes for general and rural administration.

“We have more services and are spending more, but not increasing taxation,” chair John Kettle said. “We had surpluses and carried forward a lot of them.”

Kettle says they discussed using those surpluses to further offset the $6,000, but rejected it based on the staff time required to adjust the 15 to 20 affected services.

“Changing all of those to balance to zero would have cost us at least as much,” Kettle says. “So we just adopted the budget as is. It’s basically a zero budget. We’re not taking any more and we’re doing the same job with the money.”

Kettle says they could have given taxpayers a break, but opted to hang on to the extra money in anticipation of other expenses, such as a switch to a new accounting system and the search for a new administrator to replace Jim Gustafson, who will retire later this year.

“We have some transitional things that we kept money back for so we don’t have to hit everybody with a huge tax increase if things don’t go our way,” Kettle says.

He said cutting taxes now only to raise them again later “would be kind of like giving your kid a candy bar and then saying ‘Give it back.’”

Kettle attributed the surpluses to conservative budgeting and prudent management.

The overall financial plan is worth $57.9 million, compared to $50.7 million last year. Of that, $22.1 million will be generated through taxes, up about $470,000 over last year — an increase of 2.2 per cent.

Different areas pay different amounts based on their service levels.

Taxation accounts for 43 per cent of the regional district’s overall budget. Other revenue streams include user fees (14 per cent), senior levels of government (12 per cent), and prior year surpluses (eight per cent).

Environmental services and recreation are among the areas that will see increased spending this year.

Vice-chair Hillary Elliott says more dollars will also go toward resource recovery — formerly known as waste management — as part of a long-term plan.

“The plan was to spend money to become more efficient, hopefully save money in the future, and redirect our waste more responsibly,” she says. “We intend to follow through and make sure it’s a better program.”

It’s the second straight year the budget has been passed without opposition.

But Kettle says that doesn’t mean reaching consensus was painless.

“I’ve had wisdom teeth pulled that were easier,” he joked. “We fight like cats and dogs, but when it came time to stand up as a team, we stood up.”

Budget highlights

• Staff and BC Transit have been asked to re-examine transit service delivery and see if a different model might work better.

• The board will hire a consultant to conduct a corporate review of the regional district

• Provisions for three new waterfront parks and two more community water systems.

• A two to three year software conversion project.

Ongoing projects

• Official community plan reviews in five electoral areas.

• Improvements to the RDCK’s online GIS system that should make it “more robust and quicker.”

• A recreation master plan for Greater Nelson.

• The new Nelson transfer station.

• Improvements to the Creston, Ootischenia, and Salmo landfills.

• Upgrades totalling $3.2 million for 11 water systems.

• Capital expenditures to the Creston rec centre.

• The board is expected to go paperless in June with the use of iPads.

 

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