It is that time of the year again. No, I am not talking about the Spring season that brings us the feeling of a fresh start each time it rolls around. I am talking about the annual budget reviews that are going on with every local government. The common focus and complaint of many politicians and staff is that there is never enough money. Each budget item has extra funding attached to it to cover rising costs.
Then there are the budget items that get added each year. These are budget lines added to try and cover the costs of a good idea growing and wanting more money to carry on. It seems that the first stop for funding is local government. Nothing can cause more of a heated debate in council than funding a project that is a personal favourite.
We all know that there is only one taxpayer. That taxpayer pays federal, provincial and local taxes plus a multitude of taxes both up front and hidden, when they purchase goods or pay for a service.
Taxes are collected so that we all can enjoy a standard of living that is acceptable, and have a community that is safe. I have no objection to that. What I do object to is taxing for services twice. For example, taxes are collected at the provincial level for healthcare. The province is responsible for healthcare. There are some problems and needed improvements. Who should fund these solutions? Should local government rally to the cause and use local taxes to correct shortfalls in the system? Should local property taxes be raised to cover off this cost?
One such issue is the level of service of our local ambulance service. They are stretched to the limit both with funding and staffing, and are hard pressed to provide the needed services.
We are told the province has no more funding to expand the service. Should local taxes then be used to fund, therefore filling a need that is the responsibility of another order of government?
Should the tax paying public be taxed twice for the same service?
Last year the Legion gave a grant to fund First Responders through the Fire Department. Now council is being asked to take on the cost through what amounts to double taxation.
The residents of Barriere are generous and eager to help with fund raising for a temporary solution. They should not be forced to contribute through taxation.
Council should work with other communities, such as Langley, to have the provincial government fix the ambulance issues in a proper, permanent manner that will benefit everyone in the province.
The District is creating a student employment program here in Barriere. The District of Barriere will partner with Barriere Secondary School, the Barriere and District Chamber of Commerce, and TNRD Area ‘O’ to provide employment opportunities so that students can complete work experience programs and get some basic training and job skills. The proposition is that funding for the program be taken out of the budget for the care of the parks, ball diamonds, cemetery and some other departments. There will be no additional funds needed and in fact there may be some savings. I feel that this can provide some real benefits to the District and to one of our greatest assets, our youth.
The District is applying for an Invest Canada-Community Initiative grant. These grants supply funds to a community to build or expand their Direct Foreign Investment plan. This grant would be used to attract investors through proven economic development processes such as responsive website design and site selector optimization. The TNRD is already building a web portal to showcase our communities to potential investors.
By leveraging federal funding we can expand on the efforts of the TNRD without a huge expense to the District.
Possibilities of diversification that can be explored include attracting investors in the food and agricultural sector. There are a number of local producers of food that may possibly benefit from a distribution system or a processing facility. Investors in this sector are currently looking to relocate or expand their various types of facilities.
Barriere needs to get what we can offer out to the world.
*Editors Note: The District of Barriere will be holding a Public Budget Presentation at Municipal Hall on Monday, March 18, 7 p.m., in Council Chambers.