Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) directors have asked managers in all departments to effectively freeze their 2014 operating budgets.
In a recommendation passed at the Sept. 26 corporate and administrative services (CAS) committee meeting, directors approved an inflationary increase of up to one per cent in the 2014 operating budget for variables outside of the SCRD’s control, such as fuel, utility and insurance costs.
But in the same motion, directors asked managers to come back with a report identifying one per cent in reductions for their department budgets to offset the inflationary increases.
Despite the direction to staff, board chair Garry Nohr predicted, “We’re still going to be three, four, five per cent at budget time next year.”
Nohr started the discussion by floating the idea that staff look at an across-the-board three per cent reduction in base budgets.
“We can’t afford these continued increases,” he said. “Maybe we should have staff come back with a real look at the budgeting and see if they can reduce.”
Roberts Creek director Donna Shugar argued against reducing base budgets, saying that would mean a reduction in services.
District of Sechelt director Darnelda Siegers suggested staff “start at zero and see where that gets us,” and eventually the committee adopted the recommendation to set a net zero per cent target.
Treasurer Tina Perreault said managers would present different scenarios to achieve the reduction target in November before budget deliberations start.
“If reductions can’t be made in certain departments, we’ve got to bring that information to the board,” she said.
The net operating base budget is defined as the prior year’s base budget excluding administrative support, salaries, benefits, transfers and debt payments. Wages and benefits are up 1.75 per cent – $212,000 – over 2013, but reductions in some operating budgets are expected to help offset the added cost, Perreault reported.
Library pact adopted
The CAS committee recommended adoption of a five-year funding agreement for the Sechelt Public Library. But directors also agreed to review the funding amounts in September 2014 and adjust them if appropriate.
Intended to provide financial certainty to the library, the five-year agreement would see total funding rise from $505,000 this year to $628,000 in 2018. Among the five funding partners, the 2018 contribution would increase to $397,000 for the District of Sechelt, $121,000 for Area B (Halfmoon Bay), $69,000 for Area D (Roberts Creek), $30,000 for Area A (Pender Harbour/Egmont) and $11,000 for the Sechelt Indian Government District (SIGD).
Defending Area A’s smaller contribution, director Frank Mauro said the amount was in line with the level of usage from his area.
“Certainly Area A is willing to pay for any services it gets, and be fair,” Mauro said.
Halfmoon Bay director Garry Nohr said with the library now providing ebooks and other digital services to its members, old ways of measuring usage don’t tell the whole story.
“To say people in Pender Harbour aren’t using it is out of date,” Nohr said.
The agreement will not be final until ratified by the SCRD board, the District of Sechelt, and the SIGD.