letter to CoW members after hearing discussion of fire department budget

Dear PRRD directors,

I was not, and nobody else on Lasqueti was, able to watch or listen to your Committee of the Whole meeting last Thursday afternoon, because it was no available to us. A recording of the meeting was posted to your web site late on Saturday. I have only just now, Monday late afternoon/early evening, managed to watch the part of it with your discussion of the Lasqueti fire department budget.

I understand the confusion and the lack of information you had available to you. Had alternate director Fisher been able to be present and to speak,he could have cleared up the confusion and lack. I will attempt to do so now.  I don't know if director Anderson was jet-lagged or confused. Laurence had briefed him about what he was going to present to you and request of you. Merrick for some reason did not want to do this, and apparently wanted to proceed with a much larger budget than needed.

Communicating with fire chief Carlson and alternate director Fisher, we decided to ask for the following:
reduction of the transfer to surplus from $26,295 to zero
reduction of the communications budget from $40,000 to $7,500
This reduction would have reduced the 2017 budget by $58,795 and left it with a total for 2017 of $99,759

This budget would enable the LIVFD to function fully for the year, and to do all the training that is required, quite likely without needing to spend all the money budgeted for the year.

The reserve already has some $93,000 in it. It has been widely perceived that this has been accumulated to fund a new fire hall, largely because it has been in the financial plans, and director Anderson has spoken and written of it (and continues to) as neccesary. Further funds transferred to the reserves are not needed, especially at this time of distrust, and  of threat of abandonment of our fire service, according to your Emergency Services Manager.

The $40,000 budgeted for communications will not be needed this year. ESM Thoms said in his report to the previous COW meeting about the E-DAC report, that nothing can be done about dispatch in 2017. The reduction to $7,500 (more than the $5,000 budgeted by Mr. Thoms in the last version) leaves chief Carlson comfortable there will be sufficient money for communications equipment. After all, only $1,365 has been spent in the last two years, in spite of $6,500 being budgeted.

I do not know why director Anderson says that the hugely increased budget for 2017 needs to be approved. He is wrong.  It is my belief that Mr. Ryan increased the budget to the maximum amount allowable (as he said in his report attached to a previous version of the budget), and then after the last meeting reduced the huge transfer to reserves by reallocating the amounts to increases in communications and training.

Director Anderson stated earlier in the meeting that the Lasqueti fire department budget had been reduced last year. It had not. In 2016 in increased to $120,030 from the $110,551 that it was in 2015.  There was a rather large decrease in the requisition from property value tax in 2016, but no reduction in the budget. Later, during her presentation by financial officer Greenan, director Anderson repeated this claim, and was told that to the best of her recollection (or some phrase like that) it was reduced by some $30,000. In fact, it was the tax requisition that was reduced, by $23,415. The budget rose by just over 9% between 2015 and 2016.

There is no need, and no justification for the LIVFD budget to rise again this year by the 32.1% reported. The Lasqueti  community values and wants its volunteer fire service. It also wants to be involved in the planning for it, and wants to have reasonable budgets, not huge, unnecessary increases without being consulted, or even informed.

Please, if you have questions about this, ask me.

I have asked to meet with Merrick and alternate director Laurence Fisher, and fire chief Richard Carlson to discuss this, and try to reach agreement about what is necessary and what is not necessary in our fire department budget this year. I hope that we can meet, and can reach agreement.  If we do not, I appeal to you to not pass a hugely inflated and unnecessary budget for our fire department at your meeting next Thursday evening.

Thank you for your careful consideration.

Peter Johnston
Lasqueti Island


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