The Regional District of North Okanagan appears to be taking a distinct financial approach.
Unlike local municipalities, the regional district is moving ahead with a 2015 budget worth $62.3 million, down from $75.1 million last year. The total tax bill is dropping from $17.6 to $15.6 million.
In most cases, budgets for individual functions aren’t rising much more than the cost of living.
“It’s a responsible budget,” said chairperson Rick Fairbairn, adding that the goal has been to control spending.
“We didn’t replace a lot of people (staff) who retired.”
And for those functions that will experience higher spending, the situation is largely out of the hands of RDNO. Provincial rules have mandated expanded training for firefighters and B.C. Hydro fees mean it costs more to operate street lights.
But it should be pointed out that while RDNO’s tax burden has eased, those taxes haven’t disappeared.
Part of the reason the district’s budget is reduced from previous years is because of restructuring Greater Vernon’s parks and recreation service. Many of those activities are now directly provided by Coldstream and Vernon, which means those jurisdictions are now taxing their constituents for the service, not RDNO.
And for what’s left of Greater Vernon’s recreation function, there is a $790,000 overrun for the sports track under construction. That money is coming from a mix of reserves and taxation, as well as, hopefully, grants and sponsors.
While some of the budget’s fine details may still raise questions, it is certainly worth acknowledging the reduced spending and taxation.
Hopefully, that is a trend regional district politicians and administrators can continue in the years to come.