News

Fraser Valley Regional District 're-structuring' saves taxpayers $450,000

Taxpayers from Abbotsford to Boston Bar will save $450,000 this year thanks to "corporate re-structuring" at the Fraser Valley Regional District.
But some FVRD directors in the electoral areas outside municipalities fear rural residents may lose some of their democratic representation as some committees are cut to "streamline" operations.
Dennis Adamson, Yale electoral area director, said the changes were made "under the illusion that we're going to save money ... what we've done (instead) is eliminated a lot of discussion on lots of issues."
"I fear my people are not going to get represented to their full extent," he said, at last week's board meeting.
The $450,000 in savings stem, in part, from a "limited" hiring freeze that started in 2010, and which saw a number of staff positions eliminated by attrition rather than lay-offs.
But a number of committees were also cut as the FVRD "recast" its operations into two divisions, Regional and Corporate Services and Community and Regulatory Services.
The former Electoral Area Services Committee, where rural issues were discussed by all the electoral area directors before going to the full board, has been rolled into the CRSC, which will now deal with all "community" issues.
The RCSC replaces the former executive committee, and the committees for parks and the environment as well. But only three electoral area directors and six mayors will sit on the committee.
Director Wendy Bales, whose electoral area includes Lake Errock and the Hemlock Valley, said after the board meeting that rural areas have only one representative, unlike municipalities that have several directors at the FVRD board.
"I wouldn't expect that the mayors of cities of the FVRD would have the time to be informed about all the issues in my electoral area," she said, and be able to give those issues full voice on the new RCSC.
She agreed electoral area directors can speak at the RCSC - but they still won't have a vote there.
"I still plan to attend the new committee, but (I) feel that it is at more of a disadvantage to the ratepayers that I represent," she said.
Director David Lamson voted with Bales and Adamson, but he felt any issues of concern to electoral areas could still be dealt with at the CRSC, and there will be electoral area directors sitting on the new RCSC.
"I think (the re-structuring) is a good thing, and I support it," he said.
If all seven electoral area directors sat on the RCSC, they could conceivably out-vote the six mayors, who represent 95 per cent of the FVRD population.
The re-structuring also means a $523,939 increase in the total taxes collected from the seven electoral areas, rising to $4.1 million in 2011 from $3.6 million in 2010.
Chilliwack residents will see the FVRD portion of their municipal taxes drop by $363,972 (20 per cent) to $1.4 million in 2011 from $1.8 million in 2010.
The FVRD tax requisition for the "average assessed house" in Chilliwack will be $35.21 in 2011 compared to $43.99 in 2010.
Abbotsford residents will see their FVRD taxes drop by $715,736 (28 per cent) in 2011 to $1.7 million from $2.5 million in 2010. The "average assessed house" there ($347,157) will see the FVRD portion of their tax bill drop to $29.04 from $40.76 in 2010 - a 28.7 per cent reduction.
Although Abbotsford is considering pulling out of the regional government, residents there pay less than Chilliwack residents - because they don't receive the same number of services, such as regional parks.
rfreeman@theprogress.com

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