Corrupt File Caused Budget to be Unbalanced

Lynsey Kitching

Normally, talk of corruption in the political sense leads into stories about embezzlement, fraud and other juicy scandals.

In Tumbler Ridge’s case, however, talk of corruption leads to discussions about Excel files.

CFO Candie Laporte said, “The [Excel] file was corrupt and that’s what caused the difference in numbers. I had to create a brand new spreadsheet and I manually entered all of the numbers for all the departments. For example, I tried to plug in a number that was only $30,000 and when I went back in, it said I was 1.2 million short. I apologize for that.”

Council was ready for another long day of budget discussion last Sunday at town hall. However, this just wasn’t the case.

With the budget having been $923,237 over at the end of the last meeting, the question was: what to cut to balance the sheets and should taxes be raised?

Neither of these things had to be done, as, once the numbers were entered into a new spreadsheet, it was discovered that the budget was pretty well already balanced.

This means instead of Council needing 1.5 million from surplus to balance the budget, they only require $901,075. The capital budget remained the same except for a few changes.

The first alteration included in the capital is moving the $130,000 for the fire department ladder truck to the equipment reserves.

Also, there is a new item in general government capital called asset management which added an additional $15,000.

In relation to asset management Laporte said, “We were just notified this week that before Barry and I were here, there was a grant applied for and accepted to do asset management for the district. They offered us an opportunity to extend that by one year. Having known nothing up to this point we got the information and thought it would be an excellent opportunity. There is a grant, so the line in the capital says $15,000 but in the revenue I put in $10,000 for the grant. The net cost is only $5,000.”

There has also been a grant added for doing the indoor playground flooring.

Laporte said, “The cost came in at $20,000, which is an increase from what it was before at $5,000 but there is a grant for about $9,000 because the materials that we will be using are recycled and therefore we can get a grant through the tire stewardship program.”

Another change was in relation to the water capital. The whole target cost for the water treatment plant refurbishment (filters, piping, valves) in 2013 is $621,700, with $600,000 coming from MFA proceeds of debt. There will be more put into the water reserve at the end of the year.

The last topic of discussion was around tax rates, and the good news here is there will be a zero percent increase for everyone and a two percent decrease in taxes for business.

Laporte said, “I sent out some emails to council and asked them to send me what they would like to see on the tax rate. However, residential and business, anyone who can connect to the water and sewer system, taxes will be going up in regards to parcel taxes, but zero percent increase in regards to the mill rate.”

Please look for the story on the regional and hospital tax increase in next week’s newspaper.

Laporte goes on to explain why using monies from the surplus is a good way to balance the books this year. She said, “Your surplus is pretty healthy right now, at $5.7 million and you are still going to have a $4.8 million surplus with pulling the $900,000. You’re not even taking out half of what we put in at the end of 2012 from just capital.”

Concerns were raised again about having too many projects on the capital budget, thus some won’t get completed. Laporte responded, “It’s better to have everything in there now, then to try to go back and add it in. These bylaws are submitted to the ministry. If we want to add to the figures and change amounts or increase substantially, we have to resubmit the bylaws and everything again to you for approval and then to the ministry again. We would rather have everything we would like in there at this point then to have to go back and redo the process.”

The capital budget is about four times bigger than what it was a couple of years ago and much of the work getting completed depends on contractors and the cooperation of the weather. Doug Beale said, “Please keep in mind also that it is a very short construction period. We only have about four to five months at best, so it’s not a full year. That is one of the biggest reasons we rely on contractors as well. Contractor availability is key to getting most of those projects completed.”Financial plan from 2014-2017 is balanced, and the final reading for this year’s plan was on May 9. The deadline for the financial plan is May 15. Note: a special meeting has been called for May 12 to repeal the financial plan bylaw 603 and tax rates bylaw bylaw.