Manfred Bauer, Mayor candidate for Keremeos
What are your views with respect to village and responsibilities regarding transient farm workers and their needs?
I don’t believe that it is the responsibility of local taxpayers to provide housing and amenities for transient workers.
The Federal Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program provides farmers with the opportunity to bring people from Mexico or Jamaica to work on the farm. This program comes with strict guidelines and for the most part works to the benefit of both parties. We also have students coming from all over the world on a one year work permit. These young people are eager to work and live on the farm for the experience of a lifetime. A large number of regular seasonal orchard workers come from Quebec and other eastern provinces. The majority of these transient workers are here to make money and often return to the farms they know have accommodation and other amenities. None of these guest workers expect to be housed, washed or fed by the municipalities they work in.
The last group of transients who have different reasons for being here is a problem that has been around for decades. Many municipalities have struggled to enforce local bylaws in the absence of an enforcement mechanism when people are not residents. Greater police presence to deter nuisance or criminal activities will certainly help.
What kind of industry (if any) would you like to work towards attracting to Keremeos?
Keremeos with its 10 Streets and 12 Avenues has very limited space to attract industry without causing a conflict between residential development and industrial activity. Noise, odors, air quality, increased traffic and neighborhood ambience are always factors to consider when locating any development.
I would like to continue to support clean industries in Keremeos that provide good jobs, such as health care, community services, school services, protective services and small businesses.
In cooperation with our regional district partners, the development of an industrial park that will attract clean industries and benefit the whole valley would be a long term goal.
Do you have any suggestions or initiatives you would like to pursue to improve small business in Keremeos?
The Village of Keremeos has been very proactive in creating a business friendly environment. This comes in many forms and ways. We were one of the first communities to participate in the Regional Mobile Business License as well as Business Pal, a website to help cut red tape and streamline procedures for business permits and license services.
We have kept the business tax rate at the same ratio with the residential rate for five consecutive years to keep business competitive.
Diverting half of the business license revenue into an economic development fund for downtown beautification projects is another avenue taken in an effort to use our limited revenue most effectively and help business.
Being a partner of the Similkameen Valley Planning Society has enabled us to work on regional promotion and business development projects.
Teaming up with Community Futures, an organization that looks after individual business financing and development has been very successful.
Seeking funding from SIDIT, Southern Interior Development Fund, for regionally important projects is another initiative, as well as working together with TOTA, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Organization, to bring business into our Valley.
Support our resource information centre and continue to work closely with our Chamber of Commerce.
These are all initiatives that have made a difference to business in Keremeos and should be further built upon.
Do you have any original thoughts on tax reduction for Keremeos tax payers?
Determining municipal taxation is a long and complex process and depends largely on the operating and capital needs of our community. Many factors need to be considered during the deliberations. Market assessment and new development, inflation, economic conditions, cost of providing services, such as bylaw enforcement as well as debt, reserves and surpluses from the previous year to name a few. The village also collects taxes for other agencies like the School District, RCMP, Regional Library, Regional District, 911, S.I.R. and Regional Hospital District over which council has no or limited input.
Every year during budget time council and Staff work together to come up with a financial plan that has one goal: Keep taxes at a sustainable level without significant service cuts. Prudent fiscal management is not the result of a miracle cure, but the result of long hours of team work crunching the numbers.