Trent Ernst, Editor
Over the last dozen years, municipal spending across BC has gone up 55 percent, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), while the population has only grown by 15 percent.
This represents an excess of $8.5-billion, or $8,356 for a family of four spent over and above what you would expect if spending followed the rate of inflation and population growth.
This news is part of CFIB’s seventh annual Spending Watch report which analyzes spending by municipalities across BC.
While the report is dated 2014, the actual information being analyzed is from 2012.
Municipalities are unable to run at a deficit, which means that any extra spending is being paid for by raised taxes and fees.
Of the 151 municipalities in BC, only eight have kept their operation spending in line with inflation and population growth over the last 12 years, and Northern BC has the highest cost per capita in local government spending, at $2,324, nearly twice that found in the Thompson Okanagan, where local government spent an average of $1,411 per capita.
However, while the north fares poorest in the report, Tumbler Ridge is Northeast BC’s highest ranked municipality in CFIB’s Municipal Spending Report.
In 2012, when this current Council took office Tumbler Ridge was ranked 115 out of 151 municipalities in BC based on data from 2010.
Since then, Tumbler Ridge has gained 58 spots to land this year at number 57 in the Province. “We have been able to accomplish this meteoric rise in the rankings while at the same time decreasing real operating spending growth by 26 percent since 2000, the third largest decrease in BC,” says Mayor Darwin Wren.
Tumbler Ridge is also only one of three municipalities (Prince Rupert and Taylor being the other two) to keep operating spending growth “well below” the benchmark of population growth and inflation.
Between 2013 and 2014, Tumbler Ridge moved from 72 in the province, a gain of 18 spots in one year.
The report takes into account both the amount of taxes paid, plus what the communities have done to moderate spending, which means that, while Tumbler Ridge is ranked sixth best in the north, the District’s Operating Spending per Capita is still above the regional average, at $2,782, compared to an average of $2,324. Of the 29 communities in the North, only Hudson’s Hope, Granisle, Massett, Fort Nelson and Stewart spend more per capita.
While that might seem high, Tumbler Ridge also boasts a much larger industrial tax base than many of these communities with two operating coal mines and plenty of oil and gas development within the region.
Many people are worried that the idling of the two mines will put more of the tax burden on small business and residential, that won’t be the case for at least two years, as both mines are in care and maintenance mode. If they were to declare that they were closing the mines for good, their tax rates would change, but neither mine seems willing to do this, with an expected strengthening of coal prices predicted in the next two years.
Mayor Wren says this council has been doing plenty of hard work and making tough decisions over the last few years. “This has lead us to continually rise through the ranks while at the same time decreasing per capita spending,” says Wren. “I also want to thank our dedicated municipal employees who have, year after year, continued to show excellence in the management of their departments, hard work in the execution of their jobs, and forethought in project planning. This report serves to highlight what can be accomplished with experience, dedication, and leadership. Congratulations to everyone who contributed to this.”