The Kaleden Parks and Recreation Service has been drawing more money than it originally was allowed to, and according to the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, that’s not unusual.
The Chief Administrative Officer for the RDOS, as well as the financial manager and manager of legislative services, sat down for their second town hall on Sickle Point on Jan. 27 to answer questions from the public.
One of the concerns that they took time to address was an anonymous letter that had been mailed out accusing the RDOS of having overtaxed residents for a number of years.
According to the 2005 amendment to the bylaw laying out the service, the RDOS is allowed to tax up to $29,000 or 20 cents per thousand in assessed value. That would equate to $100 in taxes for a $500,000 home. In 2020’s budget, the requisition was for 31.475 cents, or $157.5 for a $500,000 property, while how much the purchase of Sickle Point would raise the requisition to won’t be known until the deal and any fundraising is completed.
CAO Bill Newell acknowledged the claim and pointed out that for services in the RDOS, it is not uncommon to have them go above the requisition limit for how much the RDOS taxes residents for the service.
“Services and programs evolve and change over the years, and the intent is then to amend the bylaw to bring it into compliance, through the budgeting process,” said Newell. “For the Kaleden Parks and Recreation Service, we go out to the commission each year, talk about what the program will be for the next year and the budget that will be needed.”
The budget then goes to the board, which goes into the RDOS’ budget for the year, for discussion by the directors and communities, and if approved it’s submitted to the province for collection. Newell also noted that budgets tend to creep upwards due to inflation or additional expenses, and that the Kaleden Parks and Rec service is over 30 years old.
The provincial government also requested, as part of the currently underway Alternate Approval Process, that the RDOS do additional public consultation for the process.
“If the bylaw is successful, we’ll make the amendment to correct the requisition limit, and if it is unsuccessful, we’ll make the amendment to bring it into accord with what we need to run the 2021 budget for the service,” said Newell. “We will bring the bylaw into compliance, but it’s really the budget that sets the taxes.”
The letter, claiming to be from the “Twin Lakes Taxpayers Association,” is the second anonymously sourced letter attacking the Sickle Point purchase, following a previous letter signed by the “Kaleden Taxpayers Association.”
Residents took the time to air their personal concerns about the purchase at Wednesday night’s town hall.
The future of the property, if it is successfully purchased by the RDOS, would be decided at a later date, as well as any costs for maintaining or potentially developing it in some way.
With fundraising, the amount the RDOS would need to borrow would be reduced below the $2.5 million they have offered for the property, and the possibility for further fundraising even beyond the passage of the bylaw would be possible.
“We haven’t seen any evidence that the province is willing to step up and either provide a grant or purchase the property themselves, that’s why we’re out testing the electors in the Kaleden Parks and Recreation Service area if they want to buy it.”
Newell also called on residents in Twin Lakes and St. Andrews to get involved if they feel that their voices are not being heard.
“They should get represented on the commission, and get involved in the planning of the recreation program and budget, that would be the best way,” said Newell.
During the town hall, it was reiterated that the alternative approval process was chosen due to the need to have the bylaw in place as soon as possible to stave off the sale of the property to a private interest due to the current court-mandated sale on the property, as well as being less expensive than a referendum.
“It also has a much lower threshold for defeating the bylaw, 10 per cent on the AAP if they vote against, whereas a full referendum would need a majority or 50 per cent of those electors voting,” said Newell.
A couple of residents expressed their worries over whether the process would be carried out fairly and accurately.
“After the form is received, it is checked to ensure that the elector is eligible, that it is not a duplicate or received from outside the province. The report is then provided to the board of directors,” said the RDOS manager of legislative services, Christy Malden. “Much like any other process, like elections, we have a process in place. The forms are received, placed into the same folder, and brought back to me in the same way.”
If the AAP does get rejected, the RDOS board would make a decision on whether to go to a full referendum, if the property is still available for sale.
Residents in support of the purchase do not need to do anything. Residents who oppose the purchase are required to submit original signed elector response forms either in person or by mail to the RDOS office.
Malden also noted that if any improper forms had been received, the submitter would have been contacted, but that no such forms had yet been sent in.
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