Below is an article that appears in this week’s Selkirk Record. This is one of a number of articles that have been written over the past two years regarding the concerns that the City of Selkirk has had with the direction and management of the Selkirk & District Planning Area Board. The planning office provides a critical service to the member municipalities not to mention the citizens of our communities.
Over the past number of years I have noticed an increasing number of complaints from citizens over how their needs have not been met by the organization. Since joining the board as one of Selkirk’s three representatives I’ve found that the current board is often unwilling to examine how the organization can make improvements. The final straw was the decision the board made to jack up municipal fees by 67% in one year. The Selkirk representatives on the board challenged the board and management to justify the increase. The report we received was quiet simply a non-response. Rather than manage expenses or do without frills, the board wanted to simply demand more from the municipalities (who have to past this cost on to citizens).
With the amount of development in our region it is not unreasonable to expect that the board should be self-sustaining. In fact, less than 10% of the revenue the organization collects is from direct municipal fees. So it’s entirely reasonable to work towards the goal of having a self-sustaining organization. Rather than jacking up rates, the Selkirk representatives suggested we work towards this approach. However the board did not support this approach. In the end, the board reduced their demand for increased fees to a 33% – but with the warning that they would be looking to increase fees for 2014 by as much as 100% over 2012 rates. This is simply unacceptable. It was for this reason, this total disregard for Selkirk’s request for financial restraint, that Selkirk council voted against diverting the additional fees from services to our citizens to pay for the 2013 increases.
This article explains that their may be a glimmer of hope after the planning district management proposed a number of cost cutting measures. I am encouraged by the efforts our new manager is taking to make improvements – however the real challenge will be the board. Already, the board has voted against one of the major cost cutting efforts which will add back $70,000 to the organization’s expenses. More to come.