emails to Merrick about Lasqueti fire department budget

These are emails from me to Merrick during the CoW meeting this afternoon, from Merrick to me after the meeting, and again from me to Merrick Thursday evening.

Merrick, freshly home, was our representative at the CoW meeting. He did not, as Laurence was planning, move reductions to our fire department budget, so it stands now at $158,554, which will mean an increase in our residential property taxes of 24.55% for 2017.

Our only chance to change this is to write to the PRRD board members and insist that they make the cuts, $32,500 from communications and $$26,295, totaling $58,795 that fire chief Richard Carlson has agreed will allow the department continue to function and to improve.

If we don't all contact the board members, we'll be stuck with the increase in taxes, without our agreement and consent.  Contact information is at http://lasqueti.ca/node/5651 

 

Here is the email train, which starts chronologically at the bottom:

 

Hi Merrick,

I am extremely  disappointed that the budget has been approved by CoW without any reductions. I know that a balanced budget is required. This budget is much more than balanced. Even though the provincial auditor can require something, it doesn't mean we have to make large increases just to make sure he doesn't. This budget is hugely padded with money that isn't required immediately, and Richard has agreed that it could be cut by $58,806 and still allow the department to function effectively and fully.

Who clarified that none of the increase is for a new fire hall of NI911?  A new fire hall is in the plan. NI911 is in Ryan's plan. We have made it clear that we don't think we need, and we don't want a new fire hall. We also don't want and don't need NI911. We have come up with a better option, thanks to the work of the E-DAC committee.

Ryan has pushed the budget this year to the max. There was a modest increase last year, from 110, 551 in 2015 (of which only $73,597 was spent, to $120,030 in 2016 (of which only $97,603 was spent.

The fact that there was not a tax increase last year was not because of any protest. There was no protest about taxes. There was lots of protest about PRRD directors not listening to us. A result of the protest was E-DAC and LISWMAC. There was no tax increase last year because of the $37,000 in prior year operating surplus carrying forward into the 2016 budget.

Communications equipment had a budget of $1,500 in 2015, and $5,000 in 2016. Only a total of $1,365 was spent for both years. Until this most recent version of the budget Ryan had proposed only $5,000 for communications. Then he increased it to $40,000, an outrageous padding, since he said in his report to the board about the E-DAC report (March 9 CoW agenda) that no matter what, nothing could be done about dispatch options in 2017.

This budget, which the community does not support, will mean an almost 25% increase in our residential property taxes for 2017.  This is unacceptable to most Lasqueti people, and must be changed, by reducing the fire department budget before it is approved by the board next Thursday evening.

In your talk with Linda, please explain to her, and then to the board members next Thursday, that the $26,000_ budgeted for transfer to reserves must be eliminated and reduced to zero. Also, the $40,000 budgeted for communications must be reduced to $7,500. This will reduce the budget by just over $58,500 to a level that is roughly comparable with 2016.

We do need increased taxation, as you say, for improved waste managment. We don't need, and we don't want - as we have made clear to you and to the board - a better fire hall. We also don't want hugely increased taxes, unless we have been involved in the discussions and the decisions, and we have agreed to them.

Please make sure that these changes are made, before the budget is passed by the board.

Peter
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to help you accomplish this.      Peter

 

On 3/16/2017 6:27 PM, Merrick Anderson wrote:

 Hi Peter,I spoke to Laurence prior to the meeting, got your letter in the midst of the meeting, I had already agreed to the suggested budget increase, but seeing your letter I will discuss the suggested reductions tomorrow with Linda, who has a firm handle on what the RD requires to maintain sustainable services. I will remind you that RD's are required by law to present a balanced budget to a Provincial auditor who  can require more $$$ to be put into reserves for future needs. It was clarified that none of the budget increase is for a new Fire Hall, or for NI911, but simply for new dispatch radios and pagers, training, and reserves for new equipment. I asked if the tax increase was larger this year because of the lack of any increase due to protests last year, the answer was "yes".The RD must plan for the future, hopefully the local community can see the necessity for an improved Waste Management facility and a better Fire Hall. Your jet lagged Director.

On Thu, Mar 16, 2017 at 5:14 PM, Peter Johnston <pjohnston [at] lasqueti [dot] ca> wrote:

Hi Merrick,

Welcome home.  I heard early this afternoon that you were back, and sent this email to the PRRD directors that I expected to be at the meeting.  I understand that you are on the meeting yourself, and not Laurence.  Here's what I sent.

I have been trying to listen to and see the meeting via the webcast, but it's not working at all so far.  Could you please let me know what happens with our fire department budget.   Thanks.   Peter

As you are aware, I have been working with our alternate director and many others to reduce our fire department budget for 2017 to a more reasonable and affordable level.

I have just learned that our regular director has returned to Lasqueti this morning, and I am concerned that he might be attending the Committee of the Whole meeting this afternoon, without the knowledge and community and fire department input that Laurence, our alternate, has. I do not have any knowledge that Merrick has been in touch with or has consulted with the community about the proposed fire department budget, or anything else since he left the island. I want you to know the following, just in case Merrick attends the meeting without knowing this:

Our fire chief has agreed that the Lasqueti Island Volunteer Fire Department is able to function with a significantly reduced budget for 2017.  He has asked that the amount budgeted for training be retained at $20,000. He has also asked that the amount for communications not be cut to the previous level of $5,000, but that it can be cut to $7,700, which will allow for flexibility. He has also agreed that it is not essential to include $26,306 in the budget for transfer to the reserves.

Laurence, on behalf of the fire department and the community, has been planning on proposing a motion that these changes be made to the fire department budget, in total a reduction of just over $58,806 to the 2017 budget from the current $158,554 to a new total of $99,748. This will still mean a significant increase in residential property taxes that Lasqueti will be paying, but it will be an increase considerably smaller than the near 25% increase proposed.

I understand that Lasqueti Island Ratepayers Association has written a letter of its support for this plan. It has the support of a number of Lasqueti islanders, but has not been thoroughly discussed. This is a task that will be undertaken in the near future, to involve the community in fire department planning and direction.

I hope that Merrick is aware of this proposal, and also supports it, but I don't know that he does or will.

Thank you very much for your consideration, especially this afternoon.

Peter Johnston
Lasqueti
250-333-8785

 

 

 

 

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