District could be more transparent with finances

Give the public a better understanding of annual operating costs and taxes charged

Between 2011 and 2013 my pensions, which are based on the cost of living, increased by 4.39 per cent.

For that same period my municipal tax amount (general municipal and protection services) has increased by $433 or 32.41 per cent despite a reduction in my assessment amount. In addition, annual utility charges have increased by $98.20 or 16.55 per cent for a total increase of $531.20 over this two-year period.

I have always been proud of the cleanliness of our community, our parks and various other public facilities. The Communities in Bloom and the chainsaw carvings committees certainly deserve a big pat on the back for their contributions for beautifying our community. However, I have noticed quite a deterioration of the roads in the town area with too many potholes and cracks in the payment, and weeds sprouting up at various places along the roads and sidewalks.

Having been the district’s director of finance for many years, I realize how difficult it is for staff and council to keep property taxes to an acceptable level and balance the budget with the pressures of ever increasing costs and reductions in government grants. Providing consistent services and maintenance requires significant manpower and expenditures.

There is, however, an increasing perception in the community that too much money is spent on administration and supervisory staff. The following comparable information for 2007 and 2012 would therefore be very useful to the taxpaying public. This information is readily available from the district’s financial records:

• FTE exempt staff employees and amounts paid for salaries and benefits

• FTE secretarial and support staff and the amount paid for wages and benefits

• FTE public works and other employees and the amounts paid for wages and benefits

• Amounts paid for council stipend and expenses

• FTE of municipal RCMP officers and total cost of RCMP contract

• Amounts paid for the contracting out of other operating functions

• Total amount of operating expenditures

• Total amount of municipal property taxes

I realize that certain amount of employee time is spent on capital projects. A percentage estimate could be calculates and stated as a footnote to the total amounts reported.

I feel that in addition to giving the public a better understanding of annual operating costs and taxes charged, this information would assist council in their future decision making.

I hope mayor and council will give my suggestion serious consideration by publishing this information in The Hope Standard as part of next month’s “District News.”

Johanna Coughlin,