DemocracySTORM: Big ideas YOU wanted council to hear about the budget

Andrew Bennett
By Andrew Bennett
February 10th, 2013

Below are 58 categories into which  I put people’s responses to the question, What key points should council consider before passing the budget?

Separate articles address the questions: What should Rossland spend MORE money on? What should Rossland spend LESS money on?  And we also address concerns people have raised about DemocracySTORM.

The categories listed below are in alphabetical order, accompanied by more detailed (and uncensored) input some respondents chose to give. I did not contribute my own ideas.

You can vote on your favourite ideas by following this link and entering a name and email, or by subscribing to the Rossland Telegraph newsletter. The polls are open until midnight on Sunday, Feb. 24.

Council should consider the following key points before passing the budget:

A recession is imminent. Will the City of Rossland be part of the problem?

“Many believe a recession is imminent. The City of Rossland spends money like it is a highly profitable public company. I am sure few there could figure out how to earn money if they had to. High City taxes can break people and be the impetus for people giving up and leaving the area, accepting losses on their real estate and initiating a complete economic downtown. Every dollar of taxes paid is a dollar less spent at the stores and restaurants, invested into properties and businesses, or saved for retirement so seniors do not have to flee the high cost City of Rossland.”

Are any issues being avoided?

“Are there any issues that are being avoided? If the can is going to be kicked down the road, so be it, as long as Council isn’t in denial over it”

Are costs balanced by the benefits?

“Are costs and benefits working? costs should reap benefits. If the cost doesn’t produce benefit, this should be evaluated as potential area for cutting or change.”

“What are the costs vs benefits in equivalent measures of this?”

“Will what I’m agreeing to reduce taxes more than the services are worth.”

Attract and retain business and development

“Make sure policies are conducive to business and development.”

“Recognize the roles that employers play in sustaining the area.”

Bring back the DCC bylaw and ensure no subsidies for developers

“Developers to pay their own costs”

“Bring back the DCC bylaw”

“No indirect or direct subsidy for developers Make development cost charges reflect true costs to the city.”

Bring parking back to town

Bring some form of animal control back to town

“Dogs on leashes should be allowed on main street. With dog-poop bags available and garbage cans accessible. With zero tolerance of no leash or uncontrolled dogs on leashes. With designated dog parking spots (for those of us who have our dogs wait for us while we grocery shop so that they can help carry our purchases home)

“Bring some form of animal control back to town. And this i add as an animal lover. After the recent death of a dog on Main street, I have only grown more concerned about unsupervised dogs about town. We don’t want to give, as a town, the impression that we don’t hold our citizens to an acceptable level of pet care – and not knowing where your dog is or what it is doing at all given hours of the day, is reprehensible. There are so many dogs in Rossland that we need to ensure their proper care and supervision.”

Can we create a tax system that is fair to the least fortunate?

“Service to every citizen. Council should be considering the least capable among us. how does the budget serve and enhance the living of folk subsisting on small pensions, of frail physical status, who’ve pioneered the city and now need help as they seek to remain residents of it. how does the budget serve and enhance the living of folk who struggle to make ends meet while earning a living in tourism support and retail jobs that are part of the attractions the city uses to market itself to folk with more disposable income.”

“Can we create a tax system that is fair to the least fortunate? People love to talk about “affordable housing”, but how do we really go about doing this? I don’t mind paying higher taxes than some other municipalities as long as I feel I get good value for my money. There’s a reason I live in Rossland, rather than other surrounding communities – let’s not play the game of lowering the taxes to try to outcompete other towns for citizens and businesses to move here. But at the same time let’s make sure this town is accessible to people in low income ranges. Perhaps that means scaling down taxes for homes that fall among the cheapest 10%. Since those are likely owned or rented out to the least well off, it should allow for a bit of a respite.”

Carefully review and value-test third party funding grants

Combine museum with another function

“Is there a way to maintain the museum with another area (arts council or library)?

“Cost of rental space. Assuming the city will maintain a tie to Tourism Rossland, then they need to be in the museum
building, there is synergy together.”

“Museum has limited interest for locals and without the underground tours, is not much different than small town museums in almost every other small town in BC. Perhaps if the chamber of commerce and Tourism Rossland were all based out there it would be a hub to attract tourists and regular use by those organizations would subsidize some of the building operating costs?”

Consider fees for use of facilities and raise some (e.g. public skating) to defray costs

“On revenue side, policy to determine when and why taxes vs. fees”

“Fees might need to increase for usage of certain facilities in order to help defray costs. The relative cost should be considered as a price point for an individual and family – don’t raise fees across the board, think about it. For example public skates are dirt cheap at a couple dollars, the pool is reasonable at $5/ person. The arena costs a LOT more on the budget than the pool. Even an increase of $1 at the arena would help to reduce overall costs on the taxpayer.”

Consider the current usage of services and facilities

“What is the current usage of services and facilities?”

Consololidate or pick one of Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Rossland

“Could we combine the Chamber and Tourism?”

Costs should be comparable to other small communities

“is this an independent or biased presentation, not sure. lack of comparables for other cities and districts makes the data difficult to interpret.”

“Look at Rossland relative to other similar sized towns. where are we spending more or less and why? Can we learn from other places? Can we get creative to reduce expenses?”

Council should think for themselves, ask questions, and understand what they approve

“Council needs to engage in some independent thinking. Not just agree with everything put in front of them by staff. Stop being lazy and think for yourselves. Ask questions, understand what you are approving.”

“City Council – Leadership in saving money. City Council cannot expect the citizens of this small town to spearhead opposition. City Council needs to show leadership and demand expenses are inline with comparable jurisdictions. In 2006,
only 58% of the population was between 25 and 64. Between 2001 and 2006 Rossland lost 10% of its population. The average unemployment rate in the West Kootenays was 8.6% during the period from 1995 to 2008. Does this sound like Shaunessey, Oak Bay or Boston? You’re killing us with taxes.”

Determine an affordability limit and draw the line

Does what I’m agreeing to provide measurable progress towards sustainability?

Do not eliminate key needed expenditures

Downtown work of 2012—How is it reflected in the 2013 budget?

“Downtown work of 2012 – how is it reflected in the 2013 budget? What are the total costs of the 2012 project and how is the debt being addressed in the 2013 budget and next 5 year financial Plans?”

Find efficiencies, eliminate unnecessary spending

“Unnecessary spending. When it comes to business, I hate unnecessary spending on anything. There is not a single business out there that could not cut down something to reduce outgoings.”

“Where can efficiencies be found while still maintaining great services? Or better yet, where could it translate to BETTER service.”

“Efficiencies. Places where duplication of effort can be eliminated or reduced to bring down total cost. Amalgamation may be possible in some areas.”

“Find ways to be more efficient so that taxes will not increase.”

“I don’t want to see anybody lose their job, but…I think an efficiency study should be conducted on city hall. There may be efficiencies that could be identified to enable the city to run more smoothly and cost effectively.”

First define policy objectives for each service and work logically from there

“Define policy objective for each service (e.g. transportation). Within policy objectives, group “essential,” “unavoidable,” “desirable.” Add up all essential expenditures. Add up all unavoidable expenditures. Add up all desirable expenditures”

“Develop multi-year [revenue reorganization] to align revenue sources with policy. Develop revenue streams based on funding policies. Compare where that will get you to where you are.”

“On taxes, policy to determine when and why parcel vs. ad valorem tax”

Focus on community character (not just roads) to attract people

“Community Character: What kind of community is Rossland and how would anyone know that by the way the city spends its
money? Eco friendly? Supportive to citizens? Helpful to small business? Healthy life-style resource centre? Thoughtful, careful, consultative? How do we commit staff and community resources in support of who we are and who we’d like to be? How do we respond to questions, who gets a variance that affects the value of city land, and why? Who doesn’t, and why?”

“Does it bring community together?”

“What makes a community? We need more than roads and sewers! Fund important assets that keep the community a great place to live. Consider what attracts new people to rossland and do more of that!”

“Reduce to zero any personal self-interest, think community.”

Focus on transparency, accountability, and communication with citizens

“I’d like to see them explain their choices.

“Transparancy:keep us informed on budget via press release. We want to know where the money goes, send press release to the paper instead of waiting for the paper to investigate. Thanks.”

“Council needs to improve their embarrassing lack of transparency. The embarrassing lack of transparency within council over the last 12 months has compromised their ability to be fully trusted. A lot of the blame can be laid at the feet of the former CAO and the Mayor. If there is one message I would want the current City Government to hear it would be “Start clearly
reporting to the people you work for, the same people who pay your salaries… the citizens ofRossland.”

“Community input. If the budget was explained well and “normal” people could understand how those numbers work they would be more interested and knowledgeable to give well thought input.”


“Simplicity and transparency”

“Communicate far better. The way things are going, City staff and council are not looking good, and Laurie Charlton is. This is not a good situation. I do not want him in council next time around, but he will be if this keeps up. Quit having so many in-camera meetings, be open and accountable. Answer the questions that are being asked. And council has to be stronger and understand that they are the final decision makers – not staff.”

Get logging companies to pay for wear and tear on city roads they use

“Getting logging companies to pay for wear and tear on city roads they use. Failing that, at least getting a guarantee that the surrounding hillsides which are within sight of town are left unlogged, so that the town remains a pleasant place to visit (both visually and environmentally) for those folks who greatly assist the local economy: tourists/visitors/new arrivals.”

Heed the Official Community Plan

“The community Plan says what is important to the community.”

“Need to consider importance of OCP and SSP.”

I am willing to pay more taxes

“If our community is getting good value for the services we’re being taxed for, than I am willing to pay more for those services, as I believe they’re important. Even if I personally rarely use things like the arena and library. But if we see that things are happening like ridiculous 4-season pool grant applications, former staff having conflicts of interest that they financially benefit from with no consequences and disappearing paperwork, and senior staff being hired without proper hiring protocol, it’s hard to believe city staff are running the municipality in a responsible manner.”

If we can’t get a reasonable tax base, amalgamate with Greater Trail

“If you can`t get a reasonable tax base –amalgamate –give us a break.”

“When, where is it more economical to combine with the greater Trail”

“Tax base? The result is that the Taxpayer pays through the nose in Rossland.”

Instigate serious community engagement (e.g. surveys like this) and heed the results

“Listen/act on advice from this questionaire”

“Survey Rossland residents for their budget ideas. Ask the taxpayers where they want their money spent and where they don’t want it spent.”

“Instigate serious community engagement and heed the results. This DemocracySTORM is a terrific idea- but it will only be effective if there is broad participation. Council needs to increase the outreach.”

Keep Rossland affordable for working families. Don’t think ‘resort’

“Property tax affordability for families.”

“How their decisions affect the cash flow of young families…….there are lots of young families in Rossland but take a look down the hill to Warfield and see how many young people raised in Rossland are raising their children in Warfield because housing costs and taxes are lower.”

“That they need to try and do the best they can to keep expenses down – so people don’t consider moving out of the community because of the cost of taxes – we have thought about it as we have one retired (not by choice) and one 1/2 time worker – not what I want to do but if expenses get any higher we will have to consider it!”

Keep the downtown vibrant—incentives to keep buildings occupied and attractive

“Keep the downtown vibrant. Is it possible to increase taxes on commercial buildings that stay unoccupied too long? This would create an incentive to owners to attract tenants. Maybe this could be revenue neutral, so that tax discounts could apply to any property for the first year of full tenancy by a new local business. Hopefully this would create a situation where building owners would be able to offer cheaper rent to new businesses that move into their location as they start up.”

“Main street dreadful – need quality control on store appearance.”

Keep the schools in Rossland

Keep total tax increase within inflation

Maintain taxes as low as possible to attract/retain population

“Our taxes are much too high in this city!”

“Rossland’s taxes need to be competitive with other municipalities in the area.”

“Taxes are already forcing families to look in castlegar/Fruitvale and Warfield. Type of people who want to live in Rossland aren’t necessarily moving to Trail. WE have a lot of young families moving to the area we are seeing a lot of little kids and pregnant mothers around. Accomodate these young families and keep costs down so they dont have to move. I guess that means keep a high school available too.”

“The tax rate in Rossland stops some people from moving here. Every effort should be made to show people that their tax dollars are well spent on snow maintenance, road maintenance and facilities upkeep.”

“No more tax increases. The grabbing of money in the form of taxes ,fees ,etc has to slow down”

“Taxes are way to high in Rossland”

“Reducing taxes to encourage people to stay in Rossland”

“Our taxes are too high and families and individuals are moving away.”

“Maintain taxes as low as possible.”

“Priorities for spending and no tax increase.”

Make it easier to build small/affordable housing to increase the in-town population density

“Incentives to increase the in town population density. Make it easier to build town houses, duplexes etc with in the city boundaries.”

Make saving money a culture. Publish initiatives that save taxpayers

“Make saving money a culture. Publish initiatives that save taxpayers!!! Give public credit to staff or citizens that come up with ways to save money.”

New tax revenue through business/technology and thinking outside the box

No increases in debt servicing

Only minor savings are available

“The community plan lays out the direction of what is important the community – opinions at this point
could point to only minor “savings.””

Really, the wages paid in City Hall are nuts!

“Cost of admin salaries is high”

“Salaries – need to be reasonable, not exorbitant.”

“Staff Salaries – why so high?”

“Tracey Bulter earning $100,000 plus valuable benefits – really? How is this justified!!!! People in this community were horrified to learn the extravagant salaries paid to City staff. To leave it to the citizens to complain shows a complete lack of understanding about the community. I like Tracey. If I complained, do you think she or her family or friends would ever forget? Would it make a difference? Likely not, except personally, I would lose numerous relationships I value. City Council needs to take leadership and know the community wants it to reduce spending. I would volunteer to survey every person in this community with one question – do you want City Council to reduce spending by City Hall. Guess what the answer would be? Just do it and don’t expect us all to be auditors and enforcers – we have to live here and City Council ran for public office for a reason.”

“Re-evaluate administrative costs.”

“Wages (both unionized and management) seem exorbitant.”

“The high wages that management and unionized employees receive could be justified if City Hall was providing world-class services. Since this does not appear to be the case, those wages are hard to reconcile.”

Rescind the delegation bylaw and pass a revised one

“Council should rescind the delegation bylaw and pass a revised one. Council should resume its responsibility for certain things that are currently delegated to the CAO — such as the hiring of any subsequent CAO, and approving a salary grid for all City employees with full information on city salaries in comparable communities, not only in the Kootenays but elsewhere
in BC and Canada.”

“Repeal the delegation bylaw.”

“Reconsider the amount of power delegated to the CAO. CAO has too much power to hire, fire, give raises and set contract terms. Council needs to retain some control and system needs some checks and balances. We are stuck with some pricey
contracts for the long term because council gave up this responsibility. This will have budgetary impact far into the future. Cost of salaries is huge.”

Review the infrastructure 15 year plan considering reserves and climate change

“Long term infrastructure replacement. Council should have identified and prioritized key infrastructure replacement projects. they should be planned (budget will need to pay for that) and ready to go when some other level of government releases funds for them.”

“Set reserve contributions to fund long term infrastructure program.”

“Council needs to review the infrastructure 15 year plan. This will determine how much should be set aside for future infrastructure needs. Need to consider climate change and its potential impacts on infrastructure too.”

“Costly items may need to go into a long term planning process.”

“Infrastructure costs are going to go through the roof, that s [rest of comment not there.]”

Revisit staff contracts

“There are currently provisions for huge payoffs for termination. I’ve never seen such “golden parachutes” for city employees. There seems to be no protection for the city in those contracts.”

Revisit Strategic Sustainability Plan, strategic documents, and Official Community Plan

“To properly comply with our OCP and to advance the initiatives of the SSP we need to insure that the city has some visionary staff . I am concerned that some will think the planner isn’t a necessary person because there is currently no development. I disagree, without the planner a number of small progressive ideas would never have been implemented and some poorly conceived ideas would have gone forward. Ditto for some innovative grant applications. Ditto for the SC.”

“Council needs to review their strategic documents. Perhaps time to revisit those documents and revise them into something that is actually strategic.”

“Revisit the Strategic Sustainability Plan to see if it needs updating. Times are changing, new information is coming to light all the time, and it may be that Rossland’s SSP and OCP need to be tweaked to serve Rossland best in times of increasing food costs, climate uncertainty and global economic fragility brought on by environmental abuses and the current form of
the traditional “winner-take-all” economic system.”

“Sustainability should be integral to planning. Can staff integrate sustainability into their work?”

Seek legal advice (e.g. for CAO contract) rather than rely on advice from city employees

“Council should seek legal advice on a future CAO’s contract of employment. The legal advice should be from a lawyer experienced in municipal and employment law, to protect the City’s interests. The City should also be more willing to seek legal advice on other matters instead of accepting advice on the law from City employees (or others) who may be biased or

Set the stage for future development of the Emcon Lot

“This lot has potential to be the recreational hub of rossland, as well as offer economic benefits to Washington street businesses.”

Sewer deal needs to be finalized and future costs considered

“What is sewer processing going to cost in the future RDKB?”

“Sewer deal needs to be made.”

Stick to the essentials only

“Things that sound good but are inessential need to go.”

Support community volunteerism and committees

“Think about community volunteerism and what committees contribute.”

“City staff have just presented their suggestions for changes to the 2013 budget, including $0 contributions to groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Rossland, the Trail Society, the Sustainability Commission, the Heritage Commission and Neighbourhoods of Learning. All of these committees are full of community leaders who volunteer an enormous amount of their time to their communities. To cut all their funding while raising city staff’s wages to very generous amounts is a slap in the face to all of those to give so much to the community. The City has a major PR problem as it is, right now. This won’t help. Hopefully council will not endorse these cuts.”

The status quo will stay forever without some visionary alternative

“We need that ‘giant leap for mankind’ to really make any significant difference.”

They should not consider this flawed survey.

“Be thoughtful about incorporating the “opinions” in this survey! The budget is a complex document that expresses direction, importance and action. How many responses to this survey will be interesting as well as the opinions themselves. What about the Community Plan as a guide for Council? It should always provide a filter. Let’s hope this survey and results don’t cause divisions (factions) rather than feedback to the decision makers.”

Think about the future and sustainability

“What do we want our community to look like 5, 10, 15 years down the road?”

“What is the long-term economic strategy for Rossland? Just Red Mt. and biking?”

“Consider the opinions of seniors a little less. This thought seems very un-politically correct, but isn’t intended to be. In grossly generalized terms, senior citizens look at financial decisions with a understandably short future time-spans. This is often at odds with the need for longer-term community investments which come at a current cost. Let’s not forget that seniors share the blame on the current poor financial/environmental/political situation that we all find ourselves in, so why should younger generations who have to suffer from those previous decisions also have to entirely foot the bill?

Think regional—eliminate the municipal building inspector, use RDKB’s

“It seems to me that we have a lot of staff, with high salaries, for a very small population base. Combine resources with Warfield and Trail for some services, such as a building inspector.”

Think regional—find ways to share the district industrial tax base

“Longer term – find ways to share the district industrial tax base. Trail enjoys enormous revenue subsidy from industrial assets that logically belong to the wider community. The logical solution is one district-wide tax pool.”

Think regional—look for services that can be provided region-wide.

“Find savings by looking for services that can be provided region-wide. We have a lot of government for few people in the region – Rossland, Warfield and Trail. Begin talks to determine how costs can be reduced by addressing some tasks as a region.”

“Independent large plant recreation facilities. Work on sharing recreation centre funding through the regional district if Trail cannot be negotiated with. Physical plants (ball parks, arena and pool, for example) should be supported by the widest possible tax base, while local attractions (trails; mountain activities) should gain more local funding as they tend to attract others to the community as visitors and home owners/renters who live in Rossland while working elsewhere.”

“Things like not being able to afford to use the Trail aquatic center because of the cost per use – I think ZRossland needs to move forward and work out a deal with Trail on this issue.”

Think regional—merge pool of local government employees and equipment across region.

“For staff outside of bargaining unit sharing agreements with other local govs should be pursued, for unionized staff there needs to be a long term effort to merge seniority lists with other local gov’s so eventually economies can be realized. current employees should have prior rights to their current employers, but with option to bid jobs in other communities, (though prior seniority of current employees in said other communities would apply). Future hires would have regional seniority, and
would [rest of comment cut off].”

“Consolidating city works – having Trail/Warfield/Rossland/Montrose/Beaver Valley all with Public works yards seems a waste of money. Holidays coverages duplicate equipment/multiple storages. This seems like a place where money could be saved somewhere along the line.”

Tourism dollars targeted to Rossland’s history and heritage, not just sports

“Tourism Rossland is funded annually by the City for marketing – Tourism Rossland chooses to only market skiing and biking but ignore our history and heritage that is a significant part of Rossland’s ambiance and man made environment. Non profit societies like the Museum need marketing assistance – target the funds.”

Who benefits from the decisions made for budget allocation, who loses?

Who doesn’t have a voice in this process that should?

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