The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen board is going through the process of deciding where to spend our $4.7 million in annual gas tax rebates. Michael Brydon, director of Area F, wants to use the money on the RDOS trail system. He argued Penticton benefits as trail-using German tourists stay in Penticton facilities.
Yet by all accounts, Europe is in a rapid state of decline and tourism cannot be depended upon for the indefinite future.
Brydon also argued that the $4.7 million rebate loses its impact if split up into trivial amounts for different projects by the municipalities.
Tell this to Pentictonites that need $1.2 million to offset the cost of 3,100 energy-efficient LED streetlights and are facing annual deficits in running costs of their public facilities.
Or tell is to Oliver, in desperate need of road upgrades. Or Princeton that wants a swimming pool for their residents; their referendum on the pool incidentally was defeated by surrounding rural residents.
Cities across B.C. are facing unsustainable costs, and debt levels are rising to compensate for increased public standards for public facilities.
Gas tax rebates were set up to provide another level of income for municipalities, not give rural districts another way to fleece the cities and towns so they can keep rural taxes low.
In 2010, Abbotsford contributed $3 million to the Fraser Valley Regional District. After complaints from Abbotsford, the FVRD reduced the amount by $720,000 in 2011.
The FVRD was forced to make staff reductions to compensate for rapidly rising taxes in rural communities as Abbotsford’s share lessened.
After almost 10 months of study and in-camera meetings, Abbotsford in November voted 8-1 in favour of asking the provincial government for permission to leave the FVRD. They expect to save a further $759,000 a year in addition to the previous lowering of costs.
Abbotsford’s in-depth study claims they can provide all the services presently done by the FVRD, at a cost of just $1.4 million. At $3 million a year, Abbotsford’s overpayment for 10 years is $16 million. For past 40 years the FVRD has been in existence: $64 million. That almost pays for Abbotsford’s new arena, costs they are having difficulty handling.
B.C.’s municipalities should look at the serious disconnect between costs and services of the RDOS. Abbotsford did and found it wanting.
Residents of Penticton, Oliver, Osoyoos, Summerland, Keremeos and Summerland should be asking themselves: Is the RDOS worth the asking price or do we need a better deal?