You’re a local government in the Kootenays, with an urgent and expensive infrastructure project. You apply for a provincial grant to help cover the costs. But the program is oversubscribed and you get a letter back saying “Better luck next time.”
Now what? Borrow money and pay for the full shot yourself? Put it off until next year and try again?
A lobby group for municipalities and regional districts in our region says this scenario happens all the time — but shouldn’t.
The Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments is calling on the BC government to replace the present system of ad hoc grant funding with a “long term revenue sharing formula.”
Association president Andy Shadrack, the regional director for rural Kaslo, says local communities provide a “broad range of services,” but can’t keep it up when they only receive eight cents of every tax dollar. (The remainder goes to senior levels of government.)
“We want the province to work with us to end the policy of having local governments compete against each other for grants,” Shadrack said in a news release. “We believe that every local government should be treated as a partner when it comes to long-term planning and budgeting for our infrastructure.”
Shadrack said local governments need “ongoing, predictable” funding, versus the present approach, which makes it difficult for communities to accomplish their goals.
In an interview, he added they haven’t yet specified how much they are seeking, but pointed to the federal gas tax fund as the kind of revenue sharing scheme they have in mind. Since 2005, the fund has provided permanent, per capita funding to local governments for capital projects. “It was a huge step forward,” Shadrack said. “If infrastructure is important, then let’s have a solid funding base.”
Shadrack said their request is critical in light of downloading from senior governments — municipalities and regional districts are asked to take care of certain services without additional funding, shifting the burden from income and sales taxpayers to property owners.
“There’s an ongoing discussion about us taking on responsibility for dikes, but no offer of any money,” he said. “There’s an endless list.”
The issue has already been raised by the BC mayors’ caucus, and Shadrack says as a region they want to put provincial party leaders on notice that they want a change.
The call for the new approach to distributing provincial revenues comes following a meeting Friday involving 60 local government officials from throughout southeastern BC.