By Cindy Filipenko
The Village of Pemberton had to revisit a decision it made May 1 to help a non-profit offset its costs.
The VOP council, with the exception of Mayor Jordan Sturdy, had decided to give the Pemberton Childcare Society a grant in aid equal to the development cost charges (DCCs) it is incurring during construction of its new building.
The amount of the society’s anticipated DCCs was $37,887.12 Those funds had already been taken into consideration in October 2006, when council had recommended using those monies to payback funds borrowed from the DCC reserve to pay for installing a permanent waterline under the Lillooet River as part of serving the Industrial Park.
Administrator Lori Pilon, planning technician Richard Diamond and the treasurer tabled a report outlining the history, issues and potential impacts surrounding the childcare society’s requests at the May 8 Committee of the Whole meeting. The report outlined a number of issues including the legality of waiving DCCs, the financial impact of the decision, the potential for creating a precedent and the benefit to the community.
While careful wording of motions pertaining to the grant in aid will ameliorate the legal concerns, the other issues proved more contentious.
According to the report, the $37,887 amounts to 4.52 per cent of taxes to be levied in 2007 for general municipal purposes.
Mayor Sturdy put this into perspective saying, “We’ve raised taxes five per cent and effectively we’re giving it all to the childcare society. We don’t know what are situation will look like at the end of the year. The reason for raising taxes was to create a reserve.”
The mayor also said that while he recognized the value of daycare to the community, providing the Pemberton Childcare Society with relief from its DCCs was contrary to the philosophy of fiscal responsibility.
The newly established grant in aid program, also known as the Community Enhancement Fund, has an annual budget of $15,000. To date, the VOP has contributed $12,750 to a variety of community organizations. The balance for that line item in the 2007 budget is $2,250. To grant the full amount would mean the fund would be in a deficit position of $35,637.
“We’ve created a financial plan, we should try to stick to that plan, not just go off and spend money here and there and pay no attention to the budget. What kind of message does that give to our staff and organization?” asked Sturdy.
The councillors felt differently.
Councillor David MacKenzie referred to the childcare project as an example of economic growth, and as such, should be supported by the VOP. Councillors. Jennie Helmer and Kristen McLeod echoed this sentiment, calling the new daycare facility an important community amenity.
Councillor Mark Blundell, who operates the Pemberton Valley Supermarket, said he would welcome a business tax increase if it meant the daycare society was supported.
“I have a hard time keeping staff because we have no amenities. They’re young and they’re leaving,” said Blundell. “If you don’t have workers, you don’t have industry. We need those young people. If you have to raise my business taxes 4.5 per cent, then do it.”
In terms of the decision setting a precedent, staff brought up the issue of the Pemberton Heritage Museum seeking relief from fees associated with its construction of a new building. Council agreed to waive the museum’s $2,348 building permit fee at its May 1 meeting.
After a lengthy discussion, council decided it will be revisiting the issue of the childcare society’s grant in aid at the May 15 regular council meeting. The motion to be considered at that time will see the grant in aid dispersed over two years, the VOPs five-year financial plan amended to reflect this expenditure, and Electoral Area C asked to contribute to the grant.
Council will also be recommending that the VOP absorb the costs of the Pemberton Heritage Museum’s potential sewer and water connection fees. Council will also offer to assist the museum in spreading the payment of its $16,871 in DCCs over a two-to-three year period.
The museum is funded at approximately $75,000 per year by tax requisition.