Fire trucks, community funds in regional bud

On average, rural residential properties in the RDEK will see approximately a 1.3 per cent overall increase in their tax levy

The 56,655 residents occupying southeastern B.C. can look forward to another five years of fiscal restraint in the region after the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) recently completed its 2013-2017 financial plan. The 2013 budget is just $24.7 million, which represents an overall increase of $600,000 from last year when factoring a few items specific to certain service areas. Of that amount, $15,000 is being spent in rural areas A through G. When specific items are set aside, the 2013 operating budget for services shared by most municipalities and areas in the region shows a 3.2 per cent decrease from 2012. “The board and staff have worked diligently to maintain service levels and keep increases to a minimum. I am pleased with the budget we’ve adopted,” said regional district board chair Rob Gay. Based on the 2013 numbers and current assessment information, Area F (including Windermere and Fairmont) residents will likely see a 0.7 per cent increase in regional district taxes, while those in Area G (including Wilmer and Edgewater) can expect a 0.2 per cent decrease. On average, rural residential properties in the RDEK will see approximately a 1.3 per cent overall increase in their tax levy. Of the total capital spending of $3,889,000 across this corner of B.C., the regional district is applying a portion of it towards new fire trucks for the Windermere and Panorama fire halls. Those trucks will be delivered this year. If funding reallocation is approved, some of that money is also destined to be put towards upgrades to the water system in Edgewater. The entire Columbia Valley will also benefit from the three-year, $600,000 Columbia Valley Community Directed Funds, which are now officially underway with the budget approval. The priorities for that fund are in the final stages of being determined, after consultations across Areas F and G. Residents of the RDEK stand to be affected differently by the five-year financial plan depending on the municipality or electoral area in which they live. “Unlike a municipality that has one boundary and one set of taxpayers, different areas of the regional district require different services and these are paid for only by the taxpayers of each specific service area,” explained Gay. “In addition, even though there may be increases in the requisition amount, new development in parts of the region will offset some of that impact on RDEK taxpayers.” Final tax calculations are expected to be complete by early-April when 2013 revised assessed values are available.