RDOS budget stalls at second reading

Warren Everton, Manager of Finance for the Regionial District of Okanagan – Similkameen, presented the budget to the regional directors at the February 17 board meeting.

The budget as presented at the board’s morning budget workshop session involved several revisions, none of which appeared to have  serious consequences  to the final budget’s report. 

Over the past five weeks, Everton had taken the budget to participating municipalities and electoral areas for presentation and review. Everton noted that both Oliver and Summerland had expressed concern about the burgeoning problem over the recent introduction of the Spotted Wing Drysophila, a new fruit pest that is devastating valley orchard and vineyard crops. The two communities were expressing the need for some type of local assistance to help agriculturalists dispose of culled fruit without incurring tipping fees. Another councillor also expressed concern over the cancellation of the air quality program.

Funding reserves to cover the possibility of a West Nile spray order from Interior Health was a topic of conversation amongst the board. Normally, funding for West Nile spraying comes from the province, but the RDOShas no guarantee by the province that the funding will continue. The province’s budget allocation for the program is not made available until April. Last year, $350,000 was provided for the West Nile Program by the province. The board discussed the timeline issue as well as the downloading aspect of funding for a program that should be considered under the health ministry.

The board also discussed the recently created UBCO water chair position. The board had provided funding at a meeting  in 2010, but several members expressed discontent at the direction the chair was taking.

“I’m not happy with the position – we have no say over who was hired – they have brought in an economist who is looking at the marketability of water, and I’m not happy with that at all,” said Area “C” Director Allan Patton, who put forward a motion to withdraw regional district support. “I have no desire to see water turned into a marketable commodity.”

Summerland Director Gordon Clark, while commenting that he did not think the board was deceived by the water chair’s intentions, also stated that attempting to price water was a disturbing and short sighted move.

Area “F” Director Michael Brydon disagreed, stating  that, “We have to listen to the guy and give him academic freedom. He’s doing good work…

We have a problem  – we have to have someone take a look at it.”

CAO Bill Newell offered to the directors the opportunity to invite the water chair to speak to the board about the issues raised. The board has committed $22,000 per year over the next three years in funding.

Giving the budget a second and third reading, as well as  adoption, was on the agenda for the director’s afternoon regular meeting. However, moments before the recommended motion was made, attempts to make some eleventh hour changes took place that ended up scuttling adoption of the budget until the March 3 director’s meeting.

 George Hanson wished to speak to the board’s  large cut in funding to the Okanagan Film Commission, fearing that the cut would send too negative a message to the body, considered to be an important part of economic development.

The board had slashed the OFC’s budget from $34,500 per year to $12,500 during a meeting in which Hanson, who represents the Okanagan Film Commission on the board, was absent.

After some discussion, several directors expressed the view that funding cuts should be made, but possibly over a longer period of time and on a less severe basis.

A motion to restore the funding to the full amount failed, but was followed up by a motion to restore funding to $24,000, which was palatable enough to the majority of directors.

Penticton director John Vassilaka then took the opportunity to ask for new discussion on funding for Okanangan College’s Centre of Excellence.  He expressed a desire to up funding levels from the $100,000 per year over three years that had previously been set.

The board was brought back to reality by Summerland director Gordon Clark, who asked,  “What has changed in the local economy in the last few weeks that is resulting in this type of larges

 What’s going on?”

In order to provide more time for directors to make final changes in their role budgets, as well as to complete negotiations on the Area “H” landfill contract with Princeton, it was agreed to read the RDOS Five Year Financial Plan a second time with the following amendments :

 Increase the tax requisition in the Electoral Area Administration budget by $10,000 to fund an additional capital expense for the floater fleet vehicle replacement. The balance of the funding is through ICBC proceeds and sale of two surplus fleet trucks.

 Increase the requisition in Electoral Area Administration to include a $100,000 transfer to reserve

Board highlights of February 17, 2011 meeting:

 Addition of a $10,000 expense for a pool referendum in the Princeton Arena budget and an equivalent increase to the transfer from re-serve to fund it

 Reduce the requisition for Area “H” Fire Protection by $2,750 to match the expense schedule provided by the Town of Princeton

 Reduce the Building Inspection requisition to equal the 2010 requisition by adding $38,395 to the deferred permit revenue line

 Reduce the tax requisition in Area “A” Grant-in-aid by $5,000 offset by a reduction to grant expense

 Reduce the requisition for Area “B”,”G”, and “H” Economic Development by $11,178 and similarly reduce the line item for the Similkameen Planning Society. The Keremeos share was removed from the requisition and must be removed from the corresponding expense line

 Under General Government – increase Okanagan Film Commission funding from $12,500 to $24,000.

The budget will be presented at the March 3 directors meeting for another attempt at third reading and adoption.