Municipal auditor plan ruffles feathers

The B.C. government's plan to appoint a municipal auditor-general has raised concerns in local government circles, but the minister responsible says it won't mean the province is going to start telling local councils how to tax and spend money.

Community

VICTORIA – The B.C. government’s plan to appoint a municipal auditor-general has raised concerns in local government circles, but the minister responsible says it won’t mean the province is going to start telling local councils how to tax and spend money.

Community, Sport and Cultural Development Minister Ida Chong met with the executive of the Union of B.C. Municipalities in late July to discuss the plan. According to a summary sent by the UBCM to its member councils, the UBCM executive complained about the lack of consultation and asked Chong if local councils’ policy decisions would be exempt from a municipal auditor’s authority, as they are in other jurisdictions.

Chong said in an interview Wednesday that B.C.’s municipal auditor won’t overrule local governments, but “performance audits” would highlight areas where communities can save money. The service will benefit to the 160 local governments in B.C., especially the smaller ones, she said.

“More than half of our municipalities have populations under 5,000,” Chong said. “They don’t have the capacity to do value-for-money audits or performance audits.”

Smaller communities also receive unconditional grants from the province, and a municipal auditor-general would check whether they are spent effectively. All municipalities get federal and provincial cost-sharing grants for major projects, and an auditor-general could compare a group of communities to see which ones are more efficient.

Premier Christy Clark promised a municipal auditor general while running for the B.C. Liberal leadership. Her platform promised to expand the provincial auditor-general’s office to include a municipal auditor, and to “review the municipal taxation formula.”

Chong said municipal tax rates wouldn’t be the first priority, but a municipal auditor general may choose to compare rates and their effect on industrial development.

The B.C. government has been critical in the past about the heavy tax burden some municipalities place on industrial property, especially in the struggling forest industry. The issue was studied before last year’s Union of B.C. Municipalities convention, where the B.C. government rejected a request to chip in $25 million in bridge financing for municipalities to reduce industrial tax rates.

Former finance minister Colin Hansen told the convention that high industrial taxes are a problem municipalities need to fix themselves.

Chong’s office has sent out a survey to municipalities and regional districts across B.C. The survey asks municipalities if an auditor should have authority over other local bodies as well.

The B.C. government took similar steps to oversee school districts, imposing common payroll and personnel systems on boards of education and appointing “superintendents of achievement” to monitor district efforts to raise student performance.

Just Posted

Salvation Army unveils Kelowna’s new mobile community response unit

The mobile kitchen unit will be able to provide 3,000 meals a day during times of disaster

UBC Okanagan, RCMP collab for study on reporting child abuse

A fundraising gala will present a UBCO psych student’s research on how and when abuse is reported

Rockets’ Novak receives 8-game suspension

Novak was penalized for a checking-from-behind penalty on Nov.11

Kelowna rental rates least expensive among major B.C. cities

The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom unit in Kelowna is $1,233

Rockets help Team WHL to comeback win at Canada Russia Series

Kelowna skaters helped Team WHL to a 2-1 overtime win in game one of the two game series

Gym enthusiasts invited to get in gear for kids

Spin4Kids Saturday at GoodLife Fitness

North Okanagan mom cherishes life-saving alert dog

Carrie Lemay, single mom and a diabetic, welcomed Freckles, an alert guide dog, into her life

Dream funds serve up dream kitchen for Okanagan organization

CMHA upgrades space thanks to Kalamalka Dream Auction donation

Shuswap resident seeks return of stolen jewelry box containing father’s cremated remains

Sicamous RCMP report handmade box was taken from a storage locker

Province commits to supporting Indigenous tourism growth in B.C.

The Indigenous Tourism Accord signed during conference in Kelowna

‘It’s been 12 years’: Father of murdered B.C. real estate agent pleads for mayor’s help

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008 in Saanich. Her case is unsolved.

Radon levels in new Salmon Arm home a concern

Real-time monitoring shows radon concentration just within federally accepted guideline

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

Vernon councillor suggests homeless set up camp at city hall

Overnight camping in city parks is only permitted between dusk and 9 a.m. in specific parks

Most Read