Property tax deadlines have recently ended but qathet Regional District (qRD) is getting started again with its budgeting process for the 2024 to 2028 financial plan.
At the July 5 finance committee meeting, directors considered a recommendation that the regional board approve the planning process as proposed at the meeting.
Electoral Area E director and finance committee chair Andrew Fall said the committee was more or less reviewing the same process developed for last year’s budget, and similar timing in terms of when items will come before the committee and board.
Manager of financial services Linda Greenan said the only difference from the 2023 to 2027 finance plan was the recommended fees for the Myrtle Pond water system, Lund sewer system, cemeteries and campgrounds will be coming one month later. She said they were presented to the finance committee in September 2022 in the last budget because of local government elections.
Fall said he noted that the regional district has been able to pass its budget in February the last two years “which is fantastic.”
“We don’t have as much sweat on our brows,” added Fall.
The regional district has until March 31 each year to submit its five-year financial plan to the provincial government.
Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said the regional district has passed the budget in February in the last several years, but it seems to keep running into the problem of not discussing the issues of tax inequity, and which grant sources have sufficient funding.
“I’m just wondering if there is a plan to actually deal with that, or are we going to be back in the same situation a year from now?” asked Gisborne.
Fall said that was up to the board and he would invite any committee members who felt passionate about this to bring forward a motion.
“It’s up to us to do something,” said Fall. “Staff won’t just do it unless we ask. We need to think about this and come back with measured notices of motion and try to move this forward in a timely manner so it can be rolled into the financial planning process.”
City of Powell River director Cindy Elliott said she would like to see, as part of the budgeting process, a discussion dedicated to a history behind many of the grant programs, how the regional district got where it is, and how they are funded.
“Coming out of that discussion, maybe we as a board can figure out what kind of motions we might like to make in order to change things so they work better for us,” said Elliott. “I don’t know where that fits in the budgeting process but I don’t think we want to make budget decisions until we’ve had that conversation. I want it in the schedule for when we are planning our budget.”
Fall said he would ask the corporate officer to make that happen, in terms of the appropriate process, and make specific requests for whatever services the directors would like as part of that.
“It should come early so we can do something,” added Fall. “A notice of motion for a presentation from our financial staff on the history of how we got to where we are would be useful.”
City director George Doubt said the first draft of the five-year financial plan is scheduled for the November finance committee meeting. He said it is open to any board member at a finance committee meeting or board meeting before that time to ask for a report on whatever history is desired so directors can be fully informed in making decisions.
“At the latest, in November 2023, we will have the numbers in front of us as a board and we can start making serious decisions,” said Doubt. “Any director has the opportunity between now and November 1 to make motions that ask staff for reports about the histories on anything. As board members, we have a responsibility to ask those questions and that information to make informed decisions.
“The program does not start when we are approving the budget. It starts right away.”
The finance committee voted unanimously to recommend the regional board approve the financial planning process as proposed by staff at the finance committee meeting.