Talking taxes not taxing talk

Explaining the belt tightening process and how municipal tax collection works.

The City of Rossland is once again advancing a budget with a zero per cent tax increase to our residents.

This represents the fourth year in a row of no net tax increase in the city.

While costs have risen for materials and fuel — as well as other operational costs — estimated at 14 per cent over the last term, Rossland city council has requested city staff to tighten the belts once again to accommodate these increases.

That has meant senior staffing levels have been decreased by the equivalent of three people; and further streamlining of the operation has allowed us to keep costs in line and maintain service levels.

But the tax challenge is sometimes outside of our direct control, as the city collects taxes on the behalf of others.

The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, for example, provides services shared by our region and the city has to collect taxes for those local services on their behalf.

Services like the Trail Regional Airport and the potential change to full time staff and capital improvements (140 per cent budget increase), and large cost items like regional fire service with a budget of $3.5 million, a union wage budget of over $2 million and a looming 6.9 per cent increase to put our career firefighters based in Trail on par with Vancouver’s finest, are extreme challenges that face the regional district and, ultimately, directly affect our tax bill.

I am certain the RDKB board and staff are aware of the challenges and are working diligently to reduce that tax impact.

Sewer a messy issue

Despite reports to the contrary, the City of Rossland supported the recommendation of the mediator in the recent sewer review process.

Unfortunately, not all participants were made aware Rossland agreed in principle to adjust the funding formula for operating costs based on population.

Our initial bargaining position would result in a shift of approximately $60,000 in favour of the City of Trail. This was recommended by the mediator.

Further, the mediator recommended capital costs be negotiated in light of the Liquid Waste Management Phase 2 underway.

The City of Rossland believes it presented a reasonable offer and were prepared to negotiate with Warfield and Trail, unfortunately miscommunication resulted in a letter from Trail and the RDKB to the ministry to effect arbitration, a result that would be costly to us all and, in our opinion, entirely unnecessary.

The City of Rossland is convinced that a negotiated solution is the most cost effective manner in which to deal with the issue.

The sewer partnership was formed by three parties sitting across the table and negotiating a cost formula.

Rossland is most anxious to repeat the process in a spirit of cooperation.

Earth Hour

Just a reminder that Saturday, March 31 at 8:30 p.m. is Earth Hour. Please participate by turning off all unnecessary electrical devices. An hour in the dark can be fun.

Greg Granstrom is the Mayor of Rossland. Community Comment is written by elected officials from municipal councils in Greater Trail.