With winter approaching, we will be reviewing the city budget for 2013.
The cost of running the City continues to go up with paying for infrastructure upgrades, covering downloading from senior governments and inflation. In line with this, I recently attended a forum in Cranbrook called For Richer or Poorer, presented by the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments, in which we reviewed and discussed solutions on how to cover ever-increasing expenditures.
Elected officials and staff from across Kootenay and Boundary local governments know the present system of funding from property taxes alone is not working. The forum aim was “building a case for (new) taxation tools.” We reviewed the provincial mayors’ caucus held in May, where some of the recommendations were the replacement of ad hoc granting process in favor of funding that is sustainable, accountable, and quantifiable to allow for long-term financial planning by local governments.
It is not suggested to get rid of all grants, but the current system of ad hoc grants results in local governments spending staff time and money in preparing the grant applications when only a few municipalities and regional districts are successful.
If unsuccessful in receiving grant monies, the only recourse left for covering the expenditures for the local governments is with property taxes. The expenses continue to go up as senior governments download costs to municipalities. Some of the examples are: with less ambulance service available, the local fire departments are becoming the first responders to serious injury auto accidents. As well, our local city police are responding to incidents in the community and at the local hospital where there are not enough social workers or recourses provided by Interior Health Authority to cope with people with mental illness. These are just a couple of examples where our city administration is covering costs that used to be provided by senior governments.
The Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments executive will be recommending a new system of financial support which will be fairly distributed to all local governments to cover aging infrastructure projects and develop a coordinated approach to how social services are delivered into communities. We are not asking for new money, just an efficient use of existing resources to better address the changing pressures on local governments to continue to be on the frontline in delivering public services.
At the forum we had detailed discussions on how to achieve these goals. Local elected officials and staff attending agreed that we can no longer continue to raise property taxes to cover ever-expanding expenses. We agreed with the recommendations from the mayors’ forum and will put forth a detailed proposal to the provincial government.
The Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments executive will request that the provincial government replace the existing ad hoc grant program with a funding system that is sustainable, predictable and warranted in order to budget and carry out long term planning in our respective communities.
There needs to be a change in the delivery of the financial system to better reflect the increasing costs and reduce the burden on all taxpayers.