Rick Stiebel/News Gazette staff
Langford Coun. Denise Blackwell is asking the number crunchers at the Capital Regional District to go back to the drawing board.
At Wednesday’s meeting, CRD staff proposed a nearly five per cent increase in the budget for shared regional services, which includes regional planning, parks, governance and more.
Blackwell, Langford’s director on the CRD board, asked that staff take another look at ways to reduce the budget.
She wants to see the budget keep more in line with the cost of living increase, or around two per cent. “I felt 4.85 was too high, and asked staff to give us options to where we can bring it to a more reasonable level. When I come to the table it’s as as a CRD director, not a Langford councillor. While the increase may be minimal for Langford after sewage treatment is included, I want to find something that’s more equitable for everyone.”
The majority of directors supported Blackwell’s motion, and sent the budget back to staff to try to find a two per cent reduction. View Royal Mayor David Screech, however took issue with the decision.
“Staff work very hard to present a budget that represents what the CRD needs,” he said. “When staff has presented the best budget, I think it’s our job as directors to identify where the cuts need to be made. To me, this proposal is all about optics. I have no problem with the proposed increase.”
Screech noted that out of the proposed increase of nearly $43 for View Royal residents, $35 of that is for sewage treatment. “We can’t do anything about that,” he added.
Screech said the increase in part was aimed at providing more bylaw enforcement in parks, which he appreciates, especially considering the issues that arise at Thetis Lake Park during the summer months. “It also includes funding for extra staff to provide additional financial oversight. Given the size of the CRD budget, that only makes sense.”
Screech also had concerns with the budget dipping into the CRD’s reserve fund to address the cost of regional planning strategies, rather than providing that funding from requisitions. “Generally in terms of municipal budgets, you never finance operating costs from a reserve budget,” he said.
The CRD’s total 2017 operating budget was $221 million, which saw an eight per cent increase from 2016.