A half a century ago it seemed like a good idea. Times were good and the B.C. government tasked with the job of looking after the rural districts across B.C. was finding it a time-consuming and expensive proposition.
Someone got the bright idea to organize the rural districts into governing bodies and include the cities they surround as an integral part of the system. With this one step they were able to off-load many previous provincial responsibilities and expenses directly to the taxpayers in the various rural districts.
The 2011 reality is that there is no longer the money for cities to finance these sinkholes of tax dollars. Cities across B.C. are having trouble financing their own responsibilities towards their residents without trying to resolve and/or fund the problems in the rural communities that rightfully lie outside their jurisdiction.
Although the vast majority of rural residents, except through user fees, do not contribute to the financing or running costs of Penticton’s public facilities, 25 to 27 per cent of Penticton public facility use is by out-of-town residents. User fees do not cover operational costs. They are financed through the tax roll.
This places an undue burden on Penticton residential taxpayers that choose to live here. If the RDOS continues on their present course that the majority of their residents don’t use our public facilities so they should ride free, Pentictonites should consider pulling out of the RDOS and saving millions of tax dollars over the next decade.
The West Bench is the only area that provides a yearly stipend of about $20,000 to offset costs for their use of the community centre and library. However, that is the old rate. No arrangements were made by Penticton council to increase the tax rate to reflect the new reality of a renovated and upgraded centre, with costs double to three times the amount of the old facility.
Penticton, due to its small population, is particularly hard-pressed as it doesn’t have a large enough population to offset the ride-free attitude of the surrounding rural community.
Abbotsford with the population of 123,000 people is finding its regional district an onerous burden and has applied to the B.C. government to withdraw as they claim they could save $1.4 million by doing so.
Penticton taxpayers facing an ever-increasing tax burden are being unfairly taxed. It is time to move ahead and find a better way of doing things. If that means withdrawing from the RDOS, then so be it.