Every year, the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) creates a budget. This important, detailed process begins in the fall and is completed by March. Each of the six RDEK departments submits its budget to the CFO and CAO for review.
One could think, “That is only six budgets so what’s the big deal?” Well, within those departments they account for 100 different services.
There are eight fire departments, 12 water and sewer systems, three emergency management programs, two flood control services, and nine street lighting services, three solid waste services and two transit services, just to name a few.
In Area F, there are 18 unique and separate service areas, not including those shared outside of Area F.
In regional districts, taxes that are raised for a service can only be used for that service.
For instance, if the Windermere Fire Hall wants a new truck, the money has to come from the Windermere Fire Service Area. The RDEK cannot take it from the Library Service Area.
In municipalities, taxes are collected and the municipalities decide how to allocate those funds. This gives them greater flexibility to share funds; however, they need to be disciplined to keep the budgets in line.
Another difference is if a municipality wants to provide a new service, it can raise taxes. The Electoral Areas need to ask permission from the electorate to provide a new service by some sort of elector assent.
For 2015, the residents of Area F will see a 5.8 per cent increase. The primary reason for this is Recreation Services. The Eddie Mountain Arena needs a new roof ($300,000). This arena is in Invermere, owned by the RDEK and managed by the Columbia Valley Recreation Centre Society. The Canal Flats Arena needs a new Zamboni (just over $100,000). This arena is owned and managed by the Village of Canal Flats; however the capital and operations are funded by the RDEK. Both these facilities are great assets to the valley and it is important that we maintain them. In addition, there is $125,000 allocated for the new Multi-use Centre in Invermere, which will be owned by the District. While in the early stages of design, this is an exciting project.
At the RDEK, we try to keep tax increases to a minimum. This can be tough as the cost of providing these services is under pressure and the demand to add new services is constant.
Every year, each aspect of the budget is reviewed in great detail by staff and elected officials. These are more then just numbers on a spreadsheet. They are what guides the RDEK in delivering service to the property owners of the region.
Wendy Booth is the Regional District of East Kootenay Director for Area F and the RDEK board’s vice chair. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-345-6155.