Fort St. John’s Mayor has responded to allegations by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses that the city has been overspending in recent years.
The report states that the City, along with most other municipalities across B.C., has spent more in its operating budget than is justified based on population and inflation growth.
Mayor Bruce Lantz says there are two major aspects of being a northern city that aren’t factored into the CFIB report. The first aspect focuses around the fact that in order to attract qualified workers to the area, the City has been required to offer facilities and programs that only used to be available in large city centres.
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He says if the City refused to provide these items, it would have significant problems attracting workers and their families to the area, which would in turn have a negative effect on the region’s industries.
The second aspect focuses on the fact that the report does not consider the extra burden placed on cities that have a large rural population. Lantz says Fort St. John is a city surrounded by a large rural community that uses many of the City’s facilities, but that doesn’t generally contribute financial support to any of its infrastructure.
Lantz says municipalities have a system in place that presents various budget proposals to its residents and they then have an opportunity to give input on how they want the money to be spent.
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Lantz says that if municipalities only went by the CFIB’s suggested process, the money would be spent without any public consultation.
However, Lantz says he does believe the report is beneficial since it shows that current municipal funding and spending is not sustainable, which he attributes to a lack of revenue sharing between the federal and provincial governments, and municipalities. He says revenue sharing used to be a component of a municipality’s funding but was removed several years ago.
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Lantz also says that around the time revenue sharing was eliminated, the Province also offloaded various services on municipalities that it used to cover. In Fort St. John, one of those services was the maintenance of 100 St. and 100 Ave. in the city.
He also says that if the Province ever decided to remove the Fair Share program – which contributes revenue from the area’s oil and gas industry back to northeastern municipalities – all municipalities in the region would be in trouble.
The CFIB’s third annual report, released Thursday, can be viewed here.