CFIB report on Telkwa spending includes provincial program

A Telkwa mayoral candidate is calling out the CFIB for including a provincial program that is misleading on how much the village spends.

A Telkwa mayoral candidate is calling out the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, saying that a new report that they released analyzing municipal spending is based on misleading information.

The federation recently released its annual B.C. Municipal Spending Watch 2014 looking at how well municipalities across the province have been spending taxpayers’ money over the past 12 years.

In the report on increases in operating expenses, the Village of Telkwa was ranked the lowest in the Bulkley Valley at 138 out of 151 municipalities with a tax spending per capita of $1,881.

But Rimas Zitkauskas, the deputy mayor and mayoral candidate, said the numbers the federation has complied are not accurate.

“The figures in the 2014 report are inaccurate according to the operating budgets that we filed for the years in questions,” he said. “The CFIB report said that our per capita operating spending is $1,881. A more accurate figure is about $1,236 in 2012, not $1,881.

He noted the village collects roughly $1.2 million from taxpayers annually, and $625,000 from other levels of government.

“That spike in 2012 is obviously due to the inclusion of non-operating expenditures by the CFIB,” said Zitkauskas, noting that the 2014 operating budget per capita is lower than the 2013 numbers.

He also added that in 2012, the village was paid $900,000 from the province to clear vegetation in the area as part of the province’s Strategic Wildfire Prevention Initiative to fund Telkwa’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

According to Zitkauskas, no village money was put into the project, but said they were asked by the province to include it in the annual report as part of their operating budget under protective services.

In 2011, B.C.’s Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development said Telkwa’s budget for protective services was $227,326, which then jumped to $1,078,710 in 2012, which Zitkauskas said includes the approximately $900,000 from the province. The following year, the budget decreased back down to $384,995.

“We’re the one of the few communities that put our name forward to do [the program],” he said.

According to this year’s CFIB report, protective services costs were included after having been excluded in previous editions.

Municipal operating costs include protective services, staff salaries, sewer and water maintenance, and anything that is not a capital – or physical building – project.