20/20 vision, finding clarity in fiscal turbulence:
Four months in office, two-and-a-half months into 2019 and six months since the 2019 Budget process was started. They say hindsight is 20/20, well my aim is 20/20 by 2020. The budget process was very frustrating to step into without historical context. It took to third reading for me to find out where certain funds were going and why they had been created, the sheer number of graphs and spreadsheets were mind numbing. I struggled to understand why each time I made an adjustment to the budget within those areas I had sole discretion, i.e.: streamlining expenses etc., I would come back to the table and everything would have changed.
So what did I learn? The 2018 numbers were not solidified until just before third reading so the bottom line of the budget was a moving target. Area G has made financial commitments that in and of themselves are fine, they’re just not itemized or allocated in a manner that was clear. Some agreements do not have open and transparent contracts, not that anything is nefarious just difficult to track.
Bottom line, yes things are going up in cost. Yes, we were not paying actual costs on some of our services in some of our areas. Yes, we had to make adjustments with staffing to meet the needs of our expanding services and workload. Yes, if our assessments would not have changed on average we would have seen a slight decrease in some things, however our property assessments went up on average 14.2%. “What does that mean to me?” you say, $62 per year on average increase and yes it’s dependent on your property assessment. This is the BC government site that provides all the information on how to calculate your rural taxes, (https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/taxes/property-taxes/annual-property-tax/rural-area).
What am I doing or hope on doing as we move forward to the 2020 Budget? Area B, G and the Village of Keremeos came up with a compromise to use additional money’s that came in from The Keremeos Volunteer Fire Department fighting the wild fire. Fifty per cent towards reserves to drop the long term cost of the new truck in the fire service area and fifty per cent to ease the tax burden. I have decreased my contingency fund down $10,000 and I’m in discussions with Area B and the Village of Keremeos to find ways to streamline services that we share with common goals to become more cost efficient. I would also like to find ways to provide assistance to those community groups that depend on us in a more unified manner and see where we can provide support that meets the needs of more than one group at a time.
Lastly, I am confident we are moving forward in a sustainable cost effective manner with an eye to the future while taking care of our present day responsibilities. I will continue to seek out ways we can work together to express our needs to the Province and use the recourses at hand to find solutions for the day-to-day issues and opportunities that present themselves.