What I call the 47-cent Fund is officially the Community Benefit Infrastructure Fund, and was approved today (Thursday, March 23, 2017) as part of the annual TNRD budget and five-year financial plan.
The fund sets aside funding within each electoral area for use on projects in those areas as approved by the board.
Tax requisition to establish the fund for 2017 will total $94,307 in Area P. Much of it is funded through new growth, leaving about $12,000 to be raised through taxation, which impacts an average residential property (valued at $298,495) by 47 cents.
The fund has parallel benefits. The first is to provide a new means to fund worthy projects. The second is to provide flexibility in budgeting to avoid up-and-down bumps from year to year.
Prudent use of reserves prevents sticker-shock budgets when the cost of services rises and falls. I think maintaining a reasonable average (a board strategy adopted before my time strives to keep annual budget hikes in the one-per-cent range) is preferable to spiking highs and lows.
However, such a fund has to be managed with care, and that’s why there will be built-on controls. By legislation, the fund is limited to a maximum of 10 cents per $1,000 of assessment for land and improvements for the entire district.
That would put a ceiling of a little over $2 million on this reserve; however, the requisition for 2017 totals $560,000 for the region, well under the allowable. The board has also put into play an additional control — any use of the fund must be approved by the board as a whole rather than being at the discretion of individual electoral area directors.
This differs from the current discretionary fund of about $12,000 allotted to each director on an annual basis for assisting communities.
I was successful in adding a third control on the process, by successfully moving an amendment to the policy governing use of the fund. My amendment provides that priority will be given by the board to projects of broad benefit rather than being hyper local.
The actual motion that I made added a sentence to the policy stating that “Priority will be given to projects that benefit the entire Electoral Area or Regional District rather than specific service areas.”
That amending motion was then amended by the board to delete the reference to the regional district, which I’m OK with as the intent is still there. It will help keep our eye on the ball, which is to minimize taxation on residents at-large for local services that are specific to an area rather than being of broader benefit. At the same time, it retains some flexibility for “last resort” situations.
While the largest population clusters in Area P have local services such as water systems and fire protection we want to be sure of equitable access to funding throughout each electoral area. Incidentally, the funding won’t be available to privately owned assets.
I’m not in favour of creating new revenue streams based simply on the fact their economical but, in my view, 47 cents is a good investment for the purposes as I’ve outlined.