The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors is seeking public comment on its draft five year financial plan. The plan was presented on February 14, 2020 and is subject to change until the budget is officially adopted, leaving time for residents to give input.
“The RDEK board has completed its first review of the financial plan. However, the work on the plan is certainly far from complete,” explained RDEK board chair Rob Gay. “Staff will continue to meet with directors, other municipalities, and various commissions over the coming weeks and a public comment period will be open until the first Monday in March.”
Using a colourful and easy to read graph to summarize the budget, the RDEK let residents of the area see a breakdown of how money is spent across the region. The largest spending category is protective services which accounts for 19 per cent of the overall budget. Second is solid waste management, coming in at 17 per cent of the total. Municipal debt payments and administration and grants both come in at 13 per cent of the budget costs while recycling, recreation and culture, utilities, development and transit all fall below 10 per cent of the total budget.
As it stands, the 2020 capital budget for the RDEK is set at approximately $12.5 million, while the operating budget is set at $34 million. There are several large capital projects coming in the next year, including the Hill Road dike project in electoral Area A and phase one of the regional organics composting system in the Elk Valley.
According to budget documents released by the RDEK, the average residential taxpayer in Electoral Area A, or residents of Fernie, Sparwood and Elkford, will notice a 2.7 per cent increase in their taxes this year. Those who live in the South Country, or Electoral Area B, will notice a 1.4 per cent increase.
Other tax highlights for Electoral Area A include an 11.3 per cent increase for the Fernie Rural Fire Service Area, the creation of an environmental tax remediation reserve for the Hosmer septage ponds and new Elk Valley Mine Tax Sharing Agreement grants for the Fernie Historical Society, Tourism Fernie and the Sparwood Historical Society.
Electoral Area B will see a 5.3 per cent tax increase in Jaffray Fire Service, a 3.1 per cent tax increase in Baynes Lake for transfers to the building reserve starting in 2020 and a 2 per cent increase in Elko Fire Services.
The RDEK reminded residents that municipalities and electoral areas are all affected differently depending on which services they receive.
“As a board, our focus is always on finding a responsible balance between providing quality services to our residents and minimizing the tax impacts. It is often a balancing act and we feel we have achieved a fair balance with this plan. The plan will come back before the board next month and we encourage people to let us know their thoughts through the public comment period,” said Gay.
The public comment period is open until noon on Monday, March 2, 2020. Copies of the plan and comment forms are available on Engage.rdek.bc.ca/budget and through its Cranbrook and Invermere offices. The five year financial plan is expected to be adopted at the March 6 board meeting.