Editor, The Nelson Daily
The headline in a March 23, 2014 article appearing in The Nelson Daily is misleading (at best) and there is some seriously self-serving spin in the content and quotes attributed to Mr. (John) Kettle, Chair of the directors of the RDCK.
I would know as I have attended not only the public input budget meeting but the board meeting preceding this. I am in possession of serious inches of RDCK budget documents and have a permanent headache from reading and re-reading and analysing them.
First off, the idea that the $1.5 million surplus is from “savings” is not right. Savings means that the surplus was realized through reductions in expenditures because of any number of efforts: efficiencies achieved or elimination of unnecessary costs. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN.
I feeel the surplus exists largely because of nothing more than inaccurate and padded budgeting year-over-year. The surplus in question is isolated in General Administration (all that good stuff such as staff salaries, director stipends, travel and supplies) that is applied across all electoral areas.
The cost of these services has NOT been reduced over the last three years that I looked at, in fact it has gone up consistently.
What happened to generate a surplus in this account is that there was inaccurate forecasting, budgeting and taxation, which is a nice way to say sloppy bookkeeping because a surplus of this magnitude is not because of minor, incidental oversights.
A simple illustration: a department spent $100,000 last year. For the next year’s budget they say they need $120,000. Tax is collected, then the next year the department only spent $110,000 and now claim they are heroes by saving you, the tax payer, $10,000.
Simply put, the RDCK has collected far, far more tax than they actually required over the last few years. And now this excess taxation is finally being applied to the budget due in no small part to the better accounting practices being applied by our new CFO and the better tools he has at his disposal.
If you really believe that this money, this surplus, is actually “savings” then I have some swampland in Salmo that you might be interested in...oh, wait, we’ve been there before. And are still paying for it. Silly me.
The most important issue in this situation is not the actual characterization of the surplus but the painful, unavoidable reality of the future: if the RDCK is going to use $1 million of this surplus this year and the balance of $500,000 next year you have to wonder where they are going to find the money to fill the hole that they are filling with the surplus once the surplus is gone.
Well, you don’t really have to wonder for long: they’ll just go to the bottomless well they always go to the feed the beast: the tax payer, you and I.
Yes folks, if there is no serious cost-cutting or efficiencies in the next two years I believe we may be looking at a 16-18 percent increase in the taxation needed to support General Admin in 2016 and beyond. Add this into the need to fix and build a reserve fund for the NDCC and you’re looking at double-digit tax increases over multiple years.
This on top of the 15 percent tax last year in order to keep the NDCC from falling down. Oh, didn’t you notice? The trumpeting of a near flat or reduced taxation for the RDCK in 2014 doesn’t really apply to those of us fortunate enough to live in areas E, F and Nelson because that 15 percent they hit you with last year for the pool ceiling isn’t being given back, reduced at all. NOOOOHHH... you can expect to keep paying at the increased level you are now at for the next seven plus years.
To present someone as a champion of the taxpayer by virtue of a near flat rate a year after a 15 percent increase AND to claim “savings” on the back of sloppy, inaccurate bookkeeping is disingenuous at best.
Maybe speaking to your area director would be helpful if you are having the same misgivings and concerns as I: if you think we have issues now it’s only going to compound and get worse in the years to come.
There is no magic bullet, there is no return to the levels of economic growth (house of cards) coming to cover the shortfall. We had it good, we had the ability to weather the storm . . . but it’s being squandered in an matter of a few years.