Municipal spending criticized

Canadian Federation of Independent Business examines spending and taxes in B.C. communities.

Summerland received low marks for its municipal spending according to a provincial report compiled by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

The report examined 153 municipalities in British Columbia and placed Summerland 20th from the bottom in terms of its spending practices.

The report examined whether a community was able to keep spending increases at or below the rate of inflation.

In recent years, Summerland has taken on some large initiatives including road improvements, the construction of a new police station and water system upgrades.

Mayor Janice Perrino said tax increases have been kept modest despite these projects.

In her first term as mayor, from 2008 to 2011, taxes rose by five per cent. Since 2011, taxes have risen four per cent. Increases were much higher in the 2005 to 2008 council term.

She added that the costs involved in operating a municipality are increasing each year, in part because of the union pay rates.

“We’ve had virtually no growth, but we’re still subject to increases,”she said.

A third-party report on spending, compiled for Summerland by the Helios Group in 2011, showed Summerland’s spending was reasonable, she said. A 19–page summary of the key findings of the report can be found on the municipality’s website.

Because the municipality has taken on large projects in the past few years, Perrino said the focus this year is on rebuilding the reserve funds.

“You want your reserves to be able to handle emergencies,” she said. “Our tax increases are not nearly enough to cover our reserves being refilled.”

The next major projects for the community are road and water upgrades in the Garnett Valley area, road improvements on a portion of Giant’s Head Road and a sidewalk extension on Prairie Valley Road.

The tax burden could be alleviated if Summerland were to draw more businesses, Perrino said.

“We have to do more to get growth,” she said.