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

Central Okanagan firefighters are battling wildfires across B.C.

Lake Country, Kelowna and Peachland crews are assisting the BC Wildfire Service

Long-awaited John Hindle Drive in Kelowna just weeks away from completion

Ministry of Transportation says it plans to have the road open before the start of the school year

Updated: RCMP no longer suspect death of Vernon woman is suspicious

West Kelowna RCMP continue to investigate the woman’s sudden death

Man who stole hundreds of golf balls in Kelowna identified

The individual has since come forward to the RCMP

Urgent need for Kelowna, Vernon blood donors

Okanagan blood shortfall part of nation-wide challenge

A first-hand look at hazards facing scooter users

A Salmon Arm reporter tags along on a mobility scooter tour of the city to learn about safety hazards

RCMP to search for body after man drowns in B.C.’s Buntzen Lake

Officers and fire crews responded but the man from the Lower Mainland is believed to have drowned.

Man found not guilty in 2011 drug-related shooting in Shuswap

Judge rules Jeremy Davis couldn’t foresee his companion would kill 24-year-old Nick Larsen.

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Hot, dry conditions forces drought rating to highest level on Vancouver Island

The province says Vancouver Island is under Stage 4 drought conditions

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

Parks Canada has ‘general concept’ in mind for South Okanagan-Similkameen

Minister Catherine McKenna will be providing a further update to representatives in Penticton Friday, August 17

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Most Read