-SPN Takeaways, Council Meeting November 14, 2016.
B-1: Bylaw No. 658, Financial Plan Amendment Bylaw (639-1) * Report to Council * Council to consider first, second and third reading for Bylaw No. 658. Documentation includes
- Bylaw 658 – 2016-2020 Financial Plan Amend and
- Supplemental Info for 2016-2020 Financial Plan.
- (SPN Addition: the original Financial Plan, approved in April, 2016, here.)
- (SPN Addition: section 173 of the Community Charter is included below)
As introduced in an earlier SPN article, the District of Sooke is revising the previously approved Financial Plan (Council to consider many modifications to the formerly approved Financial Plan).
In a nutshell (based on the original staff report, we have not had time to comb through the supplemental), over $300K is being injected into various departments and projects at the District. This includes but is not limited to:
- Corporate Services, going up $162,371
- NEW Parking Lot: $14,000
- Fire Services, going up $16,034
- Engineering, going up $51,349
- Planning, going up $14,313
- Common Spaces, going up $53,635
To offset these expenditures, there is over $300,000 being removed from Sewer Surplus funds and funds that were supposed to be put aside for DCC’s. In addition, Revenues, sales and user fees were being increased by $70,000, a conditional grant saw a $38,500 injection, and building permits were expected to be up by $100,000.
A couple of members from the public were not that impressed. At the Public Input section at the beginning of the meeting, Ellen Lewers stated that two minutes were insufficient given the scope of the changes that were proposed in the revised Financial Plan. She wanted it to go to the public for further discussion. She didn’t recall any of these spending initiatives going through council, and wondered if the budget changes to back-pay work that had already been done. Nothing was clear, and she had a lot of questions. Lewers felt these changes should not be approved at this time.
Gail Hall came at it from a different perspective. She made four point in her presentation at the Public Input section:
- The Staff Report is insufficient; the Bylaw is illegal and simply an attempt to cover up the fact that improper expenditures have occurred
- Somewhere in this room, either in Council or in Staff or both, there are those who have earned a liability which they owe the taxpayers of Sooke. An expenditure example: Corporate Services Contingency jumping from $2,500 to $129,500.
- It is inappropriate to try and use Section 173(b) of the Community Charter to support this Bylaw, as is attempted in the Staff Report. Section 173(b) is to be used if there is an emergency and emergency funds are required.
- Perhaps there is a need to consider the word, “bylaw.” The allowed expenditures are listed in a Bylaw, they are to be dealt with by law. Once the Bylaw is ignored, and the law is broken, it cannot be fixed by writing a new bylaw to cover the misdemeanor.
“This is by far the most disturbing and disconcerting issue we have seen in this room,” concluded Hall. “If those who would govern us are free to reach into our pockets at any time they run short of money, the system is clearly broken and trust is gone forever.”
At the beginning of deliberations on this matter, Mayor Tait observed that Council had never received a report like this in the past. The standard has been to have a Financial Plan, which would then be compared to the year end budget.
Councillor Brenda Parkinson wanted to see these modifications come to Council of the Whole for further discussion. A supplementary document was inserted into the Agenda just before the meeting, and Parkinson felt that there wasn’t enough time to properly absorb the recommended changes.
It was noted by Mayor Tait that, as a bylaw, it could receive a first, second and third reading today (that’s where they are supposed to read it three times, but in practice it’s three chances for Council to say something about it), and would then go to a public hearing.
Parkinson’s motion was defeated, and when it came time to pass the first, second and third readings, all present voted in favour of the changes except for Parkinson. Present were Mayor Tait, and Councillors Parkinson, Logins, Pearson and Reay.
In his presentation of these modifications, Director of Finance Brent Blackhall noted that the actual bylaw was the first page, which provides the overall summary of the Plan; the subsequent financial details were a road map of how to get there. From that perspective, not much has changed. In fact, with Building Permit applications and user fees up, they were estimating an infusion into the budget.
As Ms. Hall noted in her presentation, the most notable change was a massive injection into the Corporate Services Contingency Funds, which went from a modest buffer of $2,500 to a whopping $129,000. In answering questions from Councillor Parkinson, Financial Director Blackhall said this increase was to cover previously approved-by-Council costs, primarily surveillance from Shadow West, the contract for the Interim Fire Chief, and the employment contract for Corporate Services.
Councillor Logins asked about the funds allotted for Seasonal Adornment. She didn’t recall Council approving $30K. Mayor Tait said it didn’t come before Council. Banners were ordered in the essence of timing, said Tait, so she accepts responsibility for that.
Pearson extended a thank you to staff for allowing to see finance changes “in real time”; Blackhall said they will work to improve the process.
Division 3 — Expenditures, Liabilities and Investments
Limit on expenditures
173 (1) A municipality must not make an expenditure other than one authorized under subsection (2) or (3).
(2) A municipality may make an expenditure that is included for that year in its financial plan, so long as the expenditure is not expressly prohibited under this or another Act.
(3) A municipality may make an expenditure for an emergency that was not contemplated for that year in its financial plan, so long as the expenditure is not expressly prohibited under this or another Act.
(4) The following apply in relation to the authority under subsection (3):
(a) the council must establish procedures to
(i) authorize expenditures under that subsection, and
(ii) provide for such expenditures to be reported to the council at a regular meeting;
(b) if an expenditure is made under that subsection, as soon as practicable, the council must amend the financial plan to include the expenditure and the funding source for the expenditure;
(c) the authority under that subsection does not include the authority to borrow for the purpose of making the expenditure.