It’s been awhile since the last update. I have been experiencing a steep learning curve as to how Local Government works, or not. The primary task at hand is to restore a voice for the communities in the Electoral Areas (in my case E.A. West) in regards to the delivery of services and the costs accompanying those endeavours. I have allied myself with the other Electoral Area (Director Hanson) from EA East better known as the Joe Rich and Ellison areas which includes all unincorporated areas on the east side of Okanagan Lake within the Regional District of the Central Okanagan. This is not to say we don’t support Regional issues we most certainly do as these issues affects our residents as they do all participating and contributing communities and their residents. The argument here is autonomy, or lack thereof resulting in taxation without representation, both serious issues!
Both myself and Director Hanson have requested a withdrawal from the EA Fire Prevention budget item. This is a service that in 2007 was a combined cost of $7,172.00 for both Electoral Areas today this cost in the preliminary budget was at $75,623 for the EA West alone and a combined cost to both Electoral Areas of $143,598.00!!! This started out as a part time advisory position to the four regional fire departments to assist with record management and training and has morphed into a full time fire services manager with staff. This has cost the taxpayers of the electoral areas (THE ONLY CONTRIBUTORS AND PARTICIPANTS IN THIS BUDGET ITEM) over $600,000.00 since 2007. This cost in my opinion was of no direct benefit to the residents dependent upon this service and is a luxury we can not afford. The fire service in the EA consists of four fire departments, six halls, 100+ officers and fire-fighters with 20+ apparatus. To pay for all this with approximately 5500 taxpaying residents and the new cost to achieve the current training standard mandated by the province is onerous to say the least. In the March 23 2015 Regional Board Meeting the Board voted 10-2 that this extra layer of regional district office management would be maintained against the expressed wishes of the elected representatives of the ONLY areas receiving and paying for said service.
The Killiney Beach Water System is seeing a fair bit of budgetary activity. I had a agenda item for $50,000 from Gas Tax money for a service review and report to support significant infrastructure upgrades costing almost $3,000,000. Then next a request to use that report to apply for a $1.800,000 Federal Government Grant. Then came a request to support that using almost $1,000,000 in Capital Reserves (that won’t be in place until 2016) as “seed” money to apply for the Federal Grant, with no promises that the grant will be approved. Three times I have asked for a detailed explanation and rational for this project and have yet to receive what I have asked for. I was told I did not need to know the details … if asked by a resident I was to have them call the Regional District for the details that they refused to give me the elected representative, unbelievable! Instead of responding to my requests I got a price list for pipe and an email from the C.A.O. stating that “Staff typically don’t seek public input prior to proposing a public works project” This is unacceptable to the <300 users that will have to pay for this three million dollar project especially if the grant money does not materialize as planned.
Library funding formula is egregious and should have been addressed years ago. The population numbers used are so far out of line as to be negligent in my opinion. There has been little or no growth in the electoral areas within the last seven years yet population estimates run from 5700 to almost 12,000!! The current budget numbers show a 27% increase in population in the last year. I asked about an appeal and was told that that would have to have occurred in October 2014 before I was elected. There has obviously been no one looking out for the taxpayers in this case. When I questioned the Board about why these charges were not addressed during Budget debates at the time it was pointed out that it was in fact my predecessor that allowed this to occur as he was the Library Board Representative. Apparently the other Board members felt no moral obligation to point out the irregularities on the population numbers (that must have been apparent to them) to our Director who seems to have been oblivious to his taxpayers shouldering more (almost double in some years) than their share of a service cost.
FOR THESE REASONS AND MANY MORE BOTH DIRECTOR HANSON AND MYSELF HAVE VOTED NOT TO SUPPORT THE 2015 BUDGET. THE INSIGNIFICANCE OF OUR VOTES WAS INDICATED BY THE REGIONAL DISTRICT NOT BOTHERING TO MENTION IN THE “BOARD HIGHLIGHTS PSA” THAT BOTH ELECTORAL AREA DIRECTORS VOTED AGAINST A BUDGET THAT CONTAINED SIGNIFICANT TAX DECREASES FOR OUR RESIDENTS!