Climate in, health and safety out of RDOS budget
New money for climate action planning is back in the regional district’s budget, but a proposal to fund improvements to its health and safety program is still dead in the water.
The board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen gave second reading Thursday to its 2014 budget after taking a second look at two items it cut from the document in December.
Director Wes Hopkin proposed adding $73,000 back into the budget to hire staff to help beef up the organization’s health and safety system, which came under fire last year when the RDOS program failed a voluntary audit.
The audit report highlighted a lack of documentation at some peripheral groups, such as volunteer fire departments, and the need for an organization-wide safety program.
“It just seems to me if we are going to put a mandate on these organizations to come to a higher safety standard, that we also have an obligation to make sure we support them in being able to meet that standard,” said Hopkin, a Penticton city councillor.
Naramata Director Karla Kozakevich spoke in favour of the new spending at a reduced amount.
“We got a lot of not-so-great press around the failing of the audit with the peripheral organizations and the fact a lot of it had to do with paperwork,” she said.
“These folks need help, so if we do nothing for another year, we’re going to have potentially another year of not-so-great record keeping when we’re always asking them to do more.”
The board again shot down the spending but did, however, vote unanimously to put $15,655 back into the budget to bolster climate action planning.
A grant program that had been supporting efforts to become carbon neutral, as required by the B.C. government, is due to run out next month.
RDOS planner Anne Hargrave, who handles some of the work, told a board committee the additional $15,655 would assist with producing reports required by government, implementing recommendations from energy audits and researching grant opportunities.
She noted climate action work to date has included anti-idling and right-sizing policies for the vehicle fleet, and will take a major step forward in March when energy audits are completed on 40 RDOS facilities.
“I believe that for a small amount of money to go forward we can continue on that progress,” Hargrave said.
Penticton Mayor Garry Litke told the board proper planning can guide good investments.
“We spent almost $500,000 retrofitting our 17 buildings (and) the savings in energy costs have been phenomenal, just unbelievable figures,” he said.
“There seems to be a payback for having invested this amount of money into our climate action plan, so it’s not a cost any longer, it’s actually a benefit.”
Other amendments approved Thursday included a $100,000 cut to the requisition for Area C and Oliver to reflect a new funding arrangement for operation of the restored Venables Auditorium, plus a $16,000 budget increase to establish honorariums for volunteer fire departments in Tulameen and Willowbrook that currently go without.
The total RDOS tax requisition for 2014 is now projected at approximately $13.8 million, a four per cent increase over last year.
The budget requires one more reading prior to adoption before March 31.