Editorial: Getting down to the crunch

Trent Ernst, Editor


By the time you read this paper, it will be three weeks and one day until the District is mandated to have their financial plan in place for the next four years.

Well, okay, you could be reading this online a day before the hard copy of the paper comes out. Or you could be reading this a couple days after the paper comes out. Heck, for all I know, you are actually twenty years in the future, flipping back through the archives looking for stories on life during Tumbler Ridge’s second period with no mines. In that case, greetings from the past, future dweller.

But this paper comes out on April 23, so that’s the date I am writing for.

A lot can happen in 22 days, but in terms of the municipal budgeting timeline? That doesn’t leave a whole lot of margin for error.

Council has kicked at the budgeting can…what? Four times? Five?… over the last few months, and they’re getting close. But they still haven’t taken more than a cursory look at how they are planning on setting the tax rates for next year.

Despite the short time they have to finish this up, I have no doubt that they will be all done by the time May 15 roles around. In fact, they are mandated by legislation to be done by May 15.

The trouble is, well, May 15.

May 15 is two weeks after the release of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the first and quite possibly biggest blockbuster of the summer movie season.

By the time May 15 rolls around, a third of the year is already gone.

Any major project that the District wants to start this year? Has to wait until a third of the year has already passed before it can be started.

And that’s just starting tp get ready. This year, the District is planning on replacing a bunch of those ugly orange overhead lights that you see around town with new LED lights. Not only are these a much nicer blue-white light, but they use a fraction of the energy.

But they can’t be ordered until May 16 at the earliest. And then the order has to be fulfilled and things need to be shipped up here and suddenly another month, month-and-a-half is gone.

Which gives Public Works about three months to replace all the lights that they can before they have to start worrying about snow flying. Which is a lot of time, if that’s all they had to do, but they’ve also got to do all their day-to-day work, plus all the other projects that they also need to work on while the weather is warm.

Historically, this has lead to work not getting completed by the end of the year. And when things aren’t done by the end of the year, the unused funds get rolled back into general funds and Council needs to re-approve the project. To be sure, it’s not Council’s fault. They don’t even get the final Assessment until the end of March, after which there is a good two weeks of number crunching to get everything ready. This means they can’t assess taxes until mid-April. Don’t hate the player, hate the game, especially when the rules are set in a place where it never snows.

But it’s changing. A few years ago, the District moved to passing a five year financial plan. This gives the town the flexibility to budget in, say, another $20,000 for more lights next year, so they can start work earlier in the year. While this has been the case for a number of years, it’s only now that the District is moving towards seriously looking at budget expenses more than the next 12 months out. And this year, Council is planning on starting work on the budget in September. Hopefully this will make the process of budgeting easier, and eliminate this annual crunch time.