GAI void not being filled next year

At the Town Council meeting on Nov. 5, it was decided that funding for economic development would be ceased indefinitely.

At the Town Council meeting on Nov. 5, it was decided that  funding for economic development would be ceased indefinitely.

The resolution to cease funding for Golden Area Initiatives (GAI) follows a recent letter received from the Columbia Shuswap Regional District confirming the position of Area ‘A’ Director Habart’s unwillingness to partner with the Town of Golden for the delivery of such services under a municipal “in-house” model.

The Town estimates that without the assistance of the regional district, or access to the Economic Opportunities Fund (EOF) account, meaningfully funding an in-house position and operating budget would at least be in the range of $150,000 annually.

The EOF is a portion of BC Hydro’s annual payment in lieu of taxes to the district.

For the past 10 years, GAI has been funded by a partnership between the two local governments to provide economic development services.  Each has contributed approximately $85,000 per year from general taxation with another $100,000 sourced from the EOF.

“Council did not enjoy having to make this decision” said Mayor Christina Benty, “but we feel without meaningful financial partnership from the regional district it is simply too burdensome for Golden tax payers to shoulder 100 per cent of what we feel is still a regional serving function.”

The Town gave notice in May 2012 of its intent to withdraw from the GAI funding agreement which now terminates on Dec. 31, 2013.  For the first six months of this year a select committee of council including local volunteers researched, consulted, and deliberated what the future of economic service delivery could look like for the community.  In July its recommendation to Council was a return to a municipally staffed function, with regional focus and representation, which is no longer possible without the financial partnership with the CSRD.

“This is a huge step backward, to before the mid-nineties for Golden”, said Coun. Caleb Moss, and former chair of the committee. “While neither government was happy with the current model, we did expect continued regional cost sharing and support in a delivery alternative.  We simply do not have staffing capacity, or the specialized skill base to give economic development the dedicated focus needed to entice investment to our area.”

An even greater setback said Moss is that “even with our proposal to fund the entire function using EOF – with no tax payer burden – the answer was no.  There will now be no functioning body to focus on supporting and helping the development of our collective business community.  The “do nothing” option of the regional district is a “lose-lose” proposition at best and really puts us at a competitive disadvantage in relationship to our progressive regional neighbors.”

With an absolute future for GAI uncertain, Council and staff are working with its board and membership to determine its options beyond this calendar year. Options that will need to be determined will include the funding of Kicking Horse Culture after 2014.

During the same meeting, council voted to apply to the CSRD to use EOF money for KHC for 2014 (as both parties need to approve the use of the funds).

This means Kicking Horse Culture’s funding is secure for one more year, and will have to be looked at again next year for 2015.