Provincial grants ease Greater Trail tax burden

Greater Trail received the Strategic Community Investment Fund, a grant payment the province gives to municipalities across the province.

You won’t notice it as a line item on your municipal tax bill, but if it didn’t exist your taxes would be higher.

It’s called the Strategic Community Investment Fund (SCIF), an unconditional grant payment the province makes from its general revenues to municipalities across the province.

The money is used for everything from paving to infrastructure work, to offsetting staff wages, but it has the ultimate effect of reducing the taxes residents have to pay in each of the Greater Trail communities, said Lila Cresswell, chief administrative officer for the Village of Fruitvale.

“Without the provincial funds like this the taxes would be substantially higher,” she said.

Under the SCIF, Fruitvale receives $242,033 in small community grants with a further $2,803 in Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program (CARIP) money coming for a total of $244,836.

That money was used in 2010 for finishing part of the Official Community Plan, some environmental work on the banks of the Beaver Creek, Fruitvale sewage collection emergency power (infrastructure) project, some paving on two village avenues, and a small amount was used to offset a tax increase, keeping it down to three per cent.

For its part, the village has to provide the province with some intended use and performance targets on what the money was used for.

Overall, the province is providing $1.8 million to the Greater Trail region, including Castlegar, through three grants: small community, CARIP and net traffic fine revenues.

Communities that have signed the Climate Action Charter and report publicly on their progress toward meeting their climate action goals receive a grant equivalent to 100 per cent of the carbon tax they pay directly.

And only communities that pay for policing— Trail and Castlegar — received the traffic fine revenue.

Trail took home the most money of any West Kootenay community from the province as it doled out the small community grants ($253,286) last week, dispersing $66,806 in traffic fine revenue and $27,131 in CARIP for a total of $347,224 for the Silver City.

The city does budget for the grant money, something that has come back from the province for several years, said David Perehudoff, the City of Trail’s chief administrative officer.

“They form part of our financial plan … and the money enhances the budget,” he said.

The plan this year is to put more into the $8 million capital budget to offset the costs incurred, and not have to increase taxes as much to accomplish the work.

The traffic fine money allows the city to employ two extra Crime Prevention Unit RCMP officers to provide a “higher level of service.”

The grants come from ticket fines and court-imposed fines on violation tickets, and the amount of money a municipality receives is based on its contribution to total municipal policing costs.

Perehudoff said they do not know how much is collected locally for traffic fines, instead, they receive an apportionment of the total provincial revenue, based on the amount the city pays for policing.

Castlegar received $245,479 in small community grants, $50,700 in traffic fines, and $12,485 in CARIP for a total of $308,664, while Warfield took home $238,086 in grants and $3,531 in CARIP for a $241,617 total.

Montrose was allotted $210,504 in small community grants and $1,443 in CARIP for a total of $211,947.

“We are doing more capital projects this year and we couldn’t do them without this,” said village chief administrative officer Kevin Chartres. “There’s no question it impacts capital projects because that is what you would cut if you didn’t have the money.”

In Montrose the small community grant money goes into general revenue to offset staff wages (they don’t collect taxes specifically for wages), council expenses, benefits programs, legal costs, running the village office, public relations, elections and general public works.

Rossland gathered up $252,225 in small community grants and $7,877 in CARIP for a $260,102 total. The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary also received cash, with $107,470 in grants and $27,381 in CARIP for a $134,851 total, the fifth highest amount out of the province’s 27 regional districts.

Nelson snared $219,127 in small community grants but $76,070 in traffic fines and $31,355 in CARIP for a $326,552 total.

Through SCIF, communities receive the same amount of money they would have received from the province, but instead of being paid once per year, more of that money is provided sooner to increase financial certainty for the grant recipients.

Grant amounts are based on a formula that factors in base amount, population and assessment values.

The Climate Action Revenue Incentive Program is a conditional grant program that provides funding to Climate Action Charter signatories equivalent to 100 per cent of the carbon taxes they pay directly.

This funding supports local governments in their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and work toward achieving their charter goals.