More Funding Cuts Coming, Library Needs More Board Members, Public Input Sought on Budget
New Format — A short summary of the highlights for those in a hurry, followed by a much more detailed report for those who like to dig deeper, know more and see a bit of who said what.
Rossland City Council Meeting, February 22, 2016
The short version:
Council heard a presentation by a representative from BC Assessment about how property assessments are determined – and much more.
On budget issues, Council determined to reduce the City’s expenses by $250,000 in 2017, and to seek community preferences on the budget. An RFP has now been issued for obtaining public input; see it here.
Council also set a total amount of $287,500 to allocate as support for community groups. This task is complicated by their previous decision to allow $50,000 for subsidizing Rosslanders’ use of recreational facilities in Trail.
Council decided to support as a priority the combined application of the Rossland Skatepark Association and the Rossland Youth Action Network for funding from Columbia Basin Trust Recreation Infrastructure Grants.
Council adopted the new Water Rate Bylaw, the new Sewer Rate Bylaw, and a zoning bylaw allowing the home at 2075 Thompson Avenue to be used as a guest house.
City Hall’s “Easy Peezy” washroom is tiny, but nearly ready.
Council’s decision on the request to fly the rainbow flag in September, and to allow a rainbow crosswalk to be painted across Washington Street near the Rossland Summit School, is postponed pending further information from ICBC.
The Rossland Public Library is seeking new board members. The recent sudden death of Eric Knudsgaard was a shock and a loss to many, including the library board.
The Rossland Museum is seeking volunteers to help move items out of archives.
Show and Tell: a piece of rock with a smooth hollow carved out of it over time by the force of water leaking from a ruptured copper water line was on display, along with the ruptured pipe — one more recent repair by the Public Works department.
Council recessed to an in camera session at about 8:30.
Here endeth the short version.
Now, for true Council mavens — the LONG VERSION: (“Maven” means “accumulator of knowledge.”)
Council Members Present: Mayor Kathy Moore, and Councillors Lloyd McLellan, John Greene, Marten Kruysse, Andrew Zwicker, Andy Morel. (Still off travelling: Aaron Cosbey.)
Staff members present: Consulting Chief Administrative Officer Lynne Burch, Interim Financial Officer Steve Ash, Manager of Public Works Darrin Albo, Deputy Corporate Officer Cynthia Añonuevo, and Assistant Alison Worsfold.
PUBLIC INPUT PERIOD: Mike Kent, Coordinator of YAN, spoke to the upcoming Council decision on the CBT recreation grant application, to encourage Council to consider the skatepark as a priority for the year.
DELEGATION from BC Assessment:
Ramaish Shah, Deputy Assessor for BC Assessment Kootenay Columbia Region, provided a presentation to Council regarding how assessments are determined in Rossland and how they compare to neighbouring municipalities’ assessments.
Shah explained that our region is now known as the “Kootenay Columbia Assessment Region.” BC Assessment is a Crown Corporation, independent from taxing authorities; it was established in 1974 under the Assessment Authority Act and is charged with providing assessments for all property in the province. There are 15 offices throughout BC.
There are over 1.97 million properties in BC, with a total value of $1.3 trillion. Market valuation date is July 1st in each year. There are nine different classifications of properties — residential, utilities, supportive housing, major industry, light industry, business & other, managed forest land, recreational & non-profit, and farm land.
Shah explained Statutory and Permissive Tax Exemptions.
He listed the important dates and events in the annual cycle of property assessment:
On December 31, the tax roll is published and notices mailed, and the deadline set for requesting a review of an assessment. Property Assessment Review panels will review assessments; if a property owner is still not convinced, an appeal can go to a Property Assessment Appeal Board.
July 1 of each year is the Valuation Date (based on values in the area at that time). The final valuation is based on the physical condition of the property as of October 31 in each year.
Less than 1% of property valuations are appealed, and changes (in successful appeals) are minor.
There are over 142,000 properties in our region. In Rossland, there are 2743 properties,, with total value of 603 million.
Median sale price in the region as a whole is at or near $250,000.
Sale price to Assessment ratio: the goal is have assessed values the same as sale values.
The Assessment BC website has a feature called “e-value BC” where owners can look up their property and neighbouring properties.
Moore questioned the trend for property values in Rossland to rise, when some properties (dwellings) listed for sale are not moving even though their asking prices are much lower than the amount they were purchased for some years ago. Shah explained that “improved” properties in the Kootenays are selling fairly well, while the value of bare land has been falling. He noted that people are less willing to build when they can find a suitable home already built, because of the problems and high cost of construction.
McLellan asked if they still do physical inspections; Shah explained that physical inspections are rare, and are usually triggered by aerial inspections or building permits.
Council adopted the minutes and recommendations made at its last three meetings: the Regular Meeting held February 9, the Special Meeting held February 15, and the Committee-of-the-Whole Meeting held February 17, 2016. The recommendations adopted included directing staff to prepare a budget based on a 3.9% increase in taxes, to prepare a plan to reduce City expenses by $250,000 in total in 2017, and to prepare a Request for Proposals for community engagement on the budget (Editor’s Update: The City has issued the RFP, and you can view it by clicking here.)
Kruysse wanted to be sure that Council is not tied to a 3.9% increase in taxes. Moore assured him that no budget decisions are final at this point.
RECOMMENDATIONS FROM STAFF FOR DECISION
A three-part motion that Council supports the combined Youth Action Network and Rossland Skatepark submission to the Columbia Basin Trust Recreation Infrastructure Grants Program by endorsing this project as the priority recreation project for Rossland for this round of grant applications, and that Council directs Staff to provide support to the Youth Action Network & Rossland Skatepark for their submission to Columbia Basin Trust, and that Council directs Staff to apply to Bike BC for the active transportation infrastructure as proposed for the Washington Street corridor CARRIED unanimously following discussion:
Zwicker suggested that the City strongly support the RSA in their application for funds.
Kruysse initially expressed discomfort with supporting the skatepark — a brand-new facility — instead of (for example) the tennis club, which runs a City facility in need of upgrading; he felt it seemed inconsistent.
In response, Moore explained that the tennis club is not ready to go ahead with a plan, and the skatepark is ready. Also, the skatepark has few if any other granting opportunities, and the combination of the YAN project and the skatepark adds appeal to the project.
McLellan was concerned that combining the YAN project and RSA might jeopardize the skatepark project.
Heath Clement of RSA was present in the gallery, and said RSA strongly supports collaborating with YAN; that both efforts work together to benefit the youth of Rossland.
Kent added that YAN is expecting an increase in its funding later this year, and those additional dollars can be put into renovating the youth space.
Albo clarified that there will be public washrooms, accessible only from the outside, and also a washroom accessible only from the inside of the YAN space.
Moore explained that the decision on requests from YAN re the rainbow flag and rainbow crosswalk will go to the next Council meeting, as staff are awaiting some information from ICBC.
Budget Discussion: Steve Ash noted that previous plans made too little provision for capital, and that with Rossland’s big infrastructure projects, and additional Regional obligations, some large expenses will be coming “on-line” in 2017. Kruysse mentioned that the impact of the operating budget on the capital plan needs more discussion.
Moore explained that “tonight, we want to come up with a figure that we want to spend on community support for 2016.”
McLellan suggested a figure of $263,600.
Moore emphasized that Council has added $50,000 to the budget for the TRP subsidy, and suggested that “scalping” the community groups to pay for it is not the right thing to do.
Kruysse pointed out that the City spends time and money to maintain some facilities such as the library, and the museum — for cutting the grass, etc. He recalled when volunteers at the Museum cut the grass there.
Moore noted that Rossland is a municipality that contributes the least to its library of all BC municipalities, and that “there are some things we can’t cut, or they won’t be able to operate at all.” She acknowledged that there are amenities that “make Rossland a great place to live, and they cost money. We don’t want to do away with them.”
Zwicker would like to have kept the $50,000 subsidy for Trail recreation separate from the community group funding, and would have included it in the recreation budget instead.
Kruysse said that “whatever we spent in 2015, we have to reduce that by 10%.” McLellan moved to settle on $280,000 as the 2016 total funding for community support; DEFEATED.
Zwicker suggested $295,000 — also DEFEATED.
Greene made a motion to set community funding at $287,500 — CARRIED.
Ash commented, “It truly is apples and oranges now, with the $50,000 recreation subsidy added in. … we need to reconfigure the recreation expenditures.”
A motion to adopt bylaw No. 2605, Water Rate Bylaw, 2016, CARRIED unanimously.
A motion to adopt bylaw No. 2606, Sewer Rate Bylaw, 2016, CARRIED unanimously.
A motion to adopt Zoning Amendment Bylaw No. 2602, 2015, to allow the home at 2075 Thompson Avenue to be used as a guest house, CARRIED unanimously.
STAFF UPDATES AND REPORTS:
The Council package includes a Task List beginning with January, 2015. Council thanked staff and commented on how helpful it is to be able to track progress on decisions.
McLellan recalled that Council had discussed street lights at an earlier meeting, and wondered what action was forthcoming.
Manager of Public Works Darrin Albo commented that the City should have a street light policy that staff can implement.
Moore pointed out that Policy # 07 03 exists and should be examined. (Your reporter could not find that policy in the City’s Policy Manual on-line at this point.)
Ash said Kelowna is working on its street lighting, did a big study, and tested different types of lights, and has sent him some helpful information.
Moore noted that the Easy Peezy station is nearly complete at City Hall, and Albo commented that it should be done by the end of the week.
Asked by Moore about the Tech Use policy, Burch commented that she still needs to consult with staff and bargaining units before completing a draft.
Moore noted that the Heritage Commission were uncomfortable with the way finance is “reporting funds to them.” And that they have been requesting a plan of the cemetery for a long time; but the sole Planner is very busy and they will have to wait until more urgent items are done.
Kruysse commented that the Heritage Commission is a volunteer group doing “some very interesting stuff, and hats off to them.”
The Sustainability Commission (SC) held a meeting on February 16, 2016.
A Council motion that the Economic Development task Force of the SC work with the new Rossland-Trail Chamber of Commerce and provide input from businesses on the new business licence bylaw CARRIED unanimously.
Moore said, “Many thanks to Tara Howse for taking over as chair of the SC.”
There were requests from J.L. Crowe Secondary School for a City of Rossland Health Awareness Award Scholarship in the amount of $250, and a City of Rossland Award Scholarship in the amount of $350.
Kruysse wondered “whether the City should be in the business of providing taxpayers dollars for scholarships … especially when we’re trying so hard to cut expenses.” Morel pointed out that businesses also contribute to scholarships, and that promoting education and scholarship is a good thing. McLellan commented that the same question could be asked about any community group applying for support. Kruysse commented that “it’s always easy to give other people’s money away.” He moved that the question be included in the public engagement on the budget: the motion CARRIED.
The Rossland Senior’s Association applied for a Fee Subsidy for the use of Trail facilities in the amount of $1,174. Council decided that staff can make decisions on applications for the recreation subsidy, within the policy.
Zwicker noted a typo in the City of Rossland 2015 Annual Water Report — the report should note that usage last year was less, not more, than in the previous year.
Morel asked whether Council had addressed the issue of non-metered homes. Albo answered that the new rate structure does penalize non-metered users, but perhaps not enough. Albo also mentioned the few homes that have a Y before the meter, resulting in some non-metered irrigation lines. The City is working to resolve that issue.
McLellan is notifying fire chiefs in the region about the fire services task force.
Morel attended a Library board meeting on February 10. The Library Renewal Project is progressing; most of the funding is in place for the first phase . The sudden death of Eric Knudsgaard was a shock and a blow to the library board and many others, and the library board is seeking more members.
Greene noted that the presentation at the Museum with Al Fisher, Shirley Vance and Ritchie Mann about the early days of skiing in and around Rossland was very good and very funny. He noted that Jackie Drysdale is looking for old books and other publications from the early years of Rossland’s history.
Zwicker reported that Ken Homes attended the BC Climate Leaders event in Nelson, which was not well advertised. Realtors are being educated about focussing on the energy efficiency of homes. The Jumbo Wild film will show at 7:00 pm on March 6 at the Miners Hall.
Moore noted that the Museum is looking for volunteers to help move items out of archives; she went to the TED talks showing at the library; it was very interesting and the broadband worked well.
Moore displayed a piece of copper pipe with a rupture, and the piece of granite rock that the water had carved and hollowed out over time.
RECESS TO IN-CAMERA MEETING:
The proceedings of the meeting were closed to the public pursuant to the Community Charter, sections 90(1)(c) Labour Relations and 90(1)(e) The Acquisition, Disposition Or Expropriation of Land or Improvements.
And your reporter wandered home in a crisp and brightly moon-lit night, feeling saddened by the prospect of further funding cuts costing our community more losses of the benefits of a well-nourished public library.