More on CRD budget games

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By ROBIN WILLIAMS

It would seem my comments on the 2019 CRD Salt Spring budget need further clarification in light of CRD director Gary Holman’s allegation in a May 8 letter that I am somehow “misinformed.”

While I was unable to attend the formal CRD budget presentation, I was invited to a private meeting regarding the referendum funding with senior CRD administrative staff on Feb. 28. I based my assessment on that meeting and the fact you cannot finance a five per cent increase in costs with a 1.8 per cent increase in revenue.

To understand how the Salt Spring transportation service requisition was misappropriated you first need to understand how CRD restricted funds should be reported. To see this we can look at the 2019 allocation for CRD Regional Parks. This is divided into two service accounts: 1.280A for land acquisition, which is a restricted fund, and 1.280, which is the general administration or unrestricted account. This simple method ensures restricted funds cannot be used for other purposes.

For 2014 to 2018 the Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission also had two requisitions: their general requisition under bylaw 3440 and the special or restricted requisition created by the referendum. However, when recording theses two requisitions, they were both combined into a single account (1.238B), the account set up for the administrative requisition. From 2014 to 2018 this was not really an issue as the $250,000 special requisition flowed through the account to a capital reserve where the bulk of the funds still sit. It did, however, have the effect of  “laundering” restricted and unrestricted funds together.

In 2019 when the requisition was supposed to end, the CRD was able to disguise that they kept it going but transferred the funds to administrative purposes. The 2019 budget claims the transportation requisition was lowered by 57.88 per cent. In reality the special requisition was lowered by 100 per cent and the administrative requisition was actually increased by $20,870.00. The balance of the $229,130 was simply spread around a series of accounts in various amounts. The CRD was able to use the blended account to disguise the administrative increase and the commission’s correct financial position.

With the requisition ending it should not have been included in the percentage tax calculation. On one hand they claim the requisition has ended but on the other they claim taxes are only increasing by 1.8 per cent. The only way this balances with a five per cent increase in costs is by maintaining the requisition. Now instead of transferring it through to the reserve account it is just getting spent.

Finally, as for the innuendo that as volunteer chair I was some how responsible for the project delay and additional costs, it is important to understand two things. Salt Spring CRD commissions do not have managerial authority;  the project manager is a CRD employee and not the SSITC chair. Second, the project is fully funded and ready to tender but is on hold due to a First Nations review.

I do not consider it responsible for an elected official to imply this delay could have been avoided during the previous term. Nor is the new CRD Director unaware of the significance of the First Nations review as I personally briefed him during a transition meeting. I also left the new director with an open invitation to consult with me on any transportation issue, including the 2019 budget, an opportunity he has to date declined.

The writer is former SSITC chair.

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