RDCK budget reveals lower rates for Area K and Nakusp
With only eight more days left on the job, Grant Roeland is a very busy man. The Regional District of Central Kootenay Chief Financial Officer has been touring the area giving presentations of the budget in centres through the district. Roeland and new RDCK CAO Brian Carruthers were both on hand at the presentation of the 2013 budget and five year financial plan for Area K and the Village of Nakusp last Thursday, March 14.
The 2013 RDCK budget will see an increase, unlike many at this point in economic history. The RDCK is bucking the trend and increasing the budget when many others are trying to reduce costs, said CAO Carruthers. He said the increase is necessary now because enough changes had not been made in the last decade.
“This organization has grown significantly in the last ten years and yet not kept up with the growth and not maintained our capacity internally to deal with the challenges,” said Carruthers.
In 2012, the RDCK commissioned an independent review of its governance and services, which resulted in a list of recommendations for improvements. Within the first two months of Carruthers coming on as CAO, detailed departmental reviews were made which corroborated the findings of the independent review.
Gaps, challenges and risks were identified and so the decision was made to spend the money to bring service levels up. For example, volumes have increased in financial work significantly, with accounts payable increasing 20 per cent each year since 2009.
The RDCK has purchased and is implementing a new business system that CAO Carruthers believes will increase efficiency for financial management and reporting, reducing costs into the future.
Carruthers said he understands the difficulty politicians face in selling an increase in spending that won’t result in a noticeable change in service levels for most residents. Because the spending is on internal RDCK departments, the reason for the increase might be lost on the average taxpayer.
To soften the blow, the $500,000 increase needed to cover what are for the most part one-time costs will be covered by surplus funds, accrued from wages not paid out due to positions left unfilled for at least part of a budget year. Two senior positions are also being vacated, the Deputy Corporate Officer and the Chief Financial Officer are both leaving this year, which will mean reduced spending on wages and will also mean a restructuring of staff.
For Nakusp and Area K residents, the change in 2013 assessments means a decrease in RDCK taxes this year. Nakuspians will see a reduction just above three per cent, and Area K residents will pay around one per cent less, even with requests for increases in some local services.
Area K director Paul Peterson and Karen Hamling did ask for a $1,200 increase for Arrow Lakes Search and Rescue so they would be able to cover the necessary expense of phone bills. The cemetery will also see an increase to its budget this year of $2,000 for issues like maintenance, fence repair and signage. The library will also be receiving an additional $3,000 for maintenance, heating and money to buy more books.
“We didn’t ask for huge amounts for anything,” said Hamling. “We didn’t want to raise rates.”