RDN “Area ‘A’
It’s that time of year when the attention of local government focusses on their one-year, five-year and ten-year operating and capital budget estimates which must be approved by the Board and submitted to the provincial government by mid-May 2015. For the many new Directors elected or appointed to the Regional District of Nanaimo’s Board, there is a steep learning curve as they try to understand the complexities and associated costs of the services covered by the budget. If one ascribes to the opinion pieces preceding and following the recent local government elections, the general public wants to see more fiscal responsibility from elected officials. Having already spent one term as Director, I expect that the reality for most will be the realization that, unless there is overwhelming support for cutting of services, many of the costs are embedded in the system and outside their immediate control.
One of the areas where control could be exhibited is contributions to services which are not the direct mandate of local government. Funding of the Island Corridor Foundation to the tune of $945,000 was, in my opinion, an example of committing taxpayer dollars to an unsustainable service. For Electoral Area ‘A’, this resulted in a one per cent property tax increase in 2013 and will add a further 0.9 per cent tax increase in 2015. Over the past several years, senior levels of government have imposed regulatory changes that have increased operating costs for local governments. Absent has been any contribution from the senior level of government to offset the associated costs. A more recent example of this is a change in how local government can access and search land title documents. In changing access ability and fees to BC OnLine the costs to the RDN alone will increase almost 1,000 per cent over those previously experienced. In this case, the RDN will have to determine whether or not to pass on these costs where possible to applicants; however, many of the costs experienced by such changes have no direct user to assign the costs to and must be borne by general property taxation.
The preliminary budget estimates for Electoral Area ‘A’ indicate that the 2015 property tax will increase by $10 ($166 in 2014 versus $176 in 2015) for the first $100,000 of assessed value; $18 per $200,000 of valuation; $28 per $300,000 of valuation; and $38 per $400,000 of valuation. A full one per cent of the average 5.65 per cent increase arises from costs assessed by the Vancouver Island Regional Library – an organization that has separate taxation authority. As noted above, another 0.9 per cent arises from contributions to the Island Corridor Foundation.
Hopefully, my colleagues on the Board will eschew adding any further costs for services that are not the responsibility of local government.