Why is Summerland’s Council pushing the proposed Summerland Growth Strategy now?
The mayor has stated that we need to take some of the best agricultural land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve for development to achieve her ultimate wish for growth of two per cent annually.
Historically, Summerland has only grown by less than 0.6 per cent annually over the last 15 years, a net two per cent annual growth is questionable, especially if no economic plan exists.
Is the rush because Summerland’s council has made poor business decisions in the past that have resulted in depleted surpluses and reserves?
We spent an excess of $2 million for the RCMP station; we built a water treatment plant (costing over $20 million); a recent roundabout with an overage of $1 million; site preparation costs of $1 million for Wharton Street with no possibility of cost recovery; lawsuit damages and legal costs of $0.5 million and a sewage system that has been in operation for over 15 years with no surplus saved for infrastructure repairs.
The result: a community of 11,280 people with a debt load of $30 million.
Surplus funds generated from the municipality’s utilities have been consistently stripped away to fund Municipal General Operating Expenditures, leaving nothing in reserve for upgrades or major infrastructure repairs.
Our elected officials are responsible for the poor financial management that got us to this financial predicament.
Council is now saying that the answer to our financial predicament is to grow annually and look for more revenue sources.
They have consistently increased taxes and debt borrowing rather than sustainable expenditure reductions.
Finally realizing our financial predicament, council has cut operating expenditures equal to an increase of approximately of seven per cent in property taxes.
They have also determined the only way to increase revenue is to make, over 78 hectares of ALR land, available for development.
This land is prime agricultural land providing local food security and employment and is already financially sustainable.
So, again, why the rush?
Murray Syrnyk, CPA, CA