A big step was taken last week towards cost sharing between the Town of Golden and the CSRD. What do you think the next step should be?
The agreement that was signed between the Town of Golden and the CSRD to share the costs for the outdoor pool using the Economic Opportunity Fund (EOF) was a good step. But I believe that the next step should be to find a way fund this cost share using the same types of operational funding that is currently used to share costs for the arena, cemetery, curling rink, museum, library, airport and parks in the area.
To most citizens, it is confusing why these other community shared facilities are funded through an operational cost-sharing model and the pool is not.
In order to work out appropriate funding models that both local governments can support, we need to continue to gather data on usage so that fair cost sharing models can be constantly evaluated and improved upon.
There needs to be a positive working relationship between the Area A director and Town of Golden representatives in order to forge these agreements.
So the next steps are data collection, negotiation and agreement of fair cost-sharing models for services used by the whole community.
At a Priority Setting Workshop in September 2013 both Council and the Town of Golden staff identified Regional Cost Sharing as the #1 priority on the Opportunity Short List.
Notably, this issue of cost sharing is not new. The Town of Golden and Area A have been fraught with the cost sharing issue since the division of our community into 2 separately governed jurisdictions in 1957.
The mixed bag of unpredictable arrangements that are presently in place is what we get with separate planning and decision-making and taxation.
Fortunately, the will to collaborate, cooperate and communicate is being demonstrated.
What is the next step?
We need to continue to cultivate this collaborative relationship.
We need to identify shared interests and shared goals. The Town and Area A need to engage partners and stakeholders to develop motivation for mutual interest. We must explore new opportunities and revisit existing agreements. We must develop partnerships and agreements for identified assets and programs. Negotiated agreements must clearly identify responsibilities, goals, outcomes and deliverables.
The security of long term cost sharing agreements means both parties will be in a better position to project long term financial strategies, create sustainable asset management plans and accumulate reserves.
The basis of Shared Services must stem from a genuine partnership and willingness to collaborate between governing bodies. The basis of any decision making process is facts and data. Council set clear direction that recreation facilities statistical user data was required to set up the conversation for Shared Services.
When presented with pool user data, it was undeniable to the Area A director that usage was significant enough to warrant sharing the pool’s annual operations costs. By the Area A director not passing the costs on via taxation, it was EOF (Economic Opportunity Fund) or nothing. Pillaging that fund sets up false expectations; that we don’t have to pay our way, a free ride.
As citizens, we have a responsibility to pay for the services we use, generally, taxation. Options other than taxation? Two tiered rate systems – one governing body chooses taxation, another doesn’t, the residents in the non taxed area pay more at the door. If Golden and Area A residents value the continuation of Shared Services exploration, they must elect a team that embraces the partnership building and collaborative spirit that’s necessary, so that together we can achieve more for our combined 7000 residents. Together we are stronger.
The next step is one that should have been done several years back and that is to look at all facilities and infrastructure which the town of Golden provides to residences of Golden/Area A and if there is no joint funding in place start implementing shared agreements.
Think of it this way; if you went into a local store and when you got to the check-out counter your friend from outside the boundaries of Golden walked out without having to pay you would say this is absurd, yet this is exactly what your elected representatives have allowed to happen for decades.
When reviewing this list another criteria to look at is whether the town should divest of its interest. In a civilized society there are services that are required that never will be self- supporting and this is how we will be Judged in the future. The real point is no matter where the funding comes for any of this it is we the citizens that supply the tax dollars to finance these ventures. Do you really want your tax dollars to be funding projects that should be self-supporting businesses?
As a member of Gary Habart’s Area A Advisory Committee, I worked with him to identify opportunities where current resources could be employed that benefit both the Town and Area A’s residents. Last week’s commitment between the Town of Golden and the CSRD to participate in a cost sharing scheme is reflective of the spirit and intent to cooperate, coordinate, and collaborate on issues that affect all of us.
The next step in building this partnership is to focus on how best to utilize our current resources to benefit our region. The EOF Funding and the use of PILT (which is expected to increase over the next few years) are key resources that can be used to support mutually beneficial opportunities.
The EOF and PILT funding represent resources that can support our recreational and cultural facilities. They will help to increase the profile, awareness, and usage. By supporting our recreation and cultural facilities and other projects, these assets will enhance our tourism sector and encourage economic growth.
Because these assets can support tourism, a key sector to our region’s economy, it makes sense, then, to deploy these resources rather than incur tax increases to support our continued economic vibrancy.
There’s no doubt that sharing operating expenses for the swimming pool with the folks of Area A is a win in this particular situation. I also believe history should be considered on the cost sharing of facilities between the people of the Town and that of Area A, to the extent that each facility or program should be considered individually. What made sense then might not now, and similarly, what might not have worked in the past might be quite successful today.
Usage should also be a consideration. A resident of Alexander Park could surely use the pool more often than a rural resident living in the Blaeberry area. So the formula for funding needs to make sense for that particular facility. Funding should be fair, and while some facilities can and should simply be based on assessment, it seems unrealistic to apply it straight across.
What should our next step be? We need to take stock of where we’re at, focus on fair funding for current facilities, and formulate a plan for future facilities. Future referendums depend on a fair funding formula, attractive to both town and rural residents.
The proposal for shared funding for the pool is not a complete solution. It is a good thing that the CSRD realize that Area A residents should assist with the funding of the swimming pool, as they too are users. However, the funding offered by the CSRD is coming out of a fund set up to promote economic opportunity rather than from regular tax revenue.
There are many cultural and sporting activities which people in Golden enjoy and EOF funds should not be used over the long run to exclusively promote two or three select ones. Golden has a large number of recreational facilities and it is going to be a challenge in the coming years to maintain all of them at current level of services given our smaller population.
What is needed is a comprehensive review of all facilities and a complete cost accounting so that taxpayers know exactly how much each is subsidized. We can then have an informed dialogue about how to deal with these costs. User groups who use each facility may need to step up and assist with support in the same manner as organizations such as the Curling club, Nordic club and Snowmobile club operate.
This is one that is extremely hard to answer. It’s hard to put in writing a process that happens so organically when people meet to first agree on a goal, then negotiate a settlement. There are guidelines to keep in mind, namely what is and isn’t allowable by legislation the Town and the CSRD operate under. To successfully negotiate shared funding for services, all parties must come to the table with a workable understanding of each other’s ideology and rules so that any solution presented is a workable one. Without this knowledge, too much time can be spent coming up with ideas that are not workable under the current legislation. After that the most important quality necessary for successful shared services funding is a willingness and desire to meet in the middle and find a solution that meets the needs of both parties. Without a willingness to negotiate, all the preparation in the world won’t make a difference to finding an outcome suitable to all parties. A big step in this whole process is keeping the taxpayers informed so that when it comes time to vote in a referendum they will have a good understanding of what they are voting on.
Golden and CSRD agreed to use the Economic Opportunity Fund (EOF) to pay for the swimming pool operation costs. Many facilities located in town benefit both town and CSRD residents (and visitors), hence both should contribute their share of costs exceeding their revenues, no matter which actually owns the facilities.
These costs are significant and needed to be addressed. By passing these expenses to the EOF, where money comes from hydro CBT agreements, local taxpayers simply avoid paying them. The town currently runs a deficit that just about match these recreational costs. I noticed the town has a debt load generating a similar level of yearly expense in interests alone.
Clearly the financial situation needs to be clarified and cleaned up and if the CSRD agrees to share the various costs via the EOF or other ways, tax-based or not, the finances of the town and area would be healthier. Cost sharing should be fully examined. A simple sharing formula can be applied to each facility (as it is for some already). Once the town has paid its debt, maybe it could be weaned out of the EOF, allowing this fund to help the economy in more various ways.
I agree that the problem has been identified; however this EOF funding is a piece of bubble gum on the leak. I believe the next step is much bigger than those taken right now;
I have 2 things I would like to see. First I would like to see the recreation department implement point of sale (POS) systems for more accurate recording of what residents are using what services. I worked for the Town of Golden in the recreation department at the arena, I know how hard it is for employees to record this data as visitors simply say they live in Golden, and don’t like to give out more info than that, it’s understandable. I believe a POS system could provide vital data more accurately for this shared services agreement.
Secondly I believe we need to host Community conversations again encouraging Area A and Golden residents to come together and we can talk about what both parties want, this needs to be a team effort for it to work. This Shared services plan could work, we just need to all be in this one together, not as the Town of Golden and Area A but together as one community.
The formalizing, last week, of a one-year cost sharing agreement between the CSRD and the Town of Golden was a small but important step forward in an ever evolving relationship between our two local governments.
Various iterations of mutual contribution arrangements such as the Arena, Airport, Golden and District Historical Society, Golden Area Initiatives, etc, have existed for years. I believe this type of mutual investment has played a critical role in developing our greater community and has tremendous potential to expand moving forward. Next steps should look towards creating a well formulated regional collaboration with the aim of maximizing resources, both human and capital, of each local government. An end goal is to keep our hard earned tax dollars being invested regionally.
Expanding the conversation with a contextual focus of “we”, meaning Golden and Area, rather than an “us and them” approach, will go a long way in transforming how local decisions are made. Ultimately, cost sharing is but a piece of how we re-envision governing ourselves. The old models are becoming outdated and planning for the future need involve creative thinking, an entrepreneurial spirit, and an ability to craft governance that reflects a new, exciting, progressing, and modern community.
Congratulations to Garry Habart, Andrew Commons & the rest of Garry’s Advisory Team for proposing the Shared Swimming Pool Agreement and to Council for approving it.
The deal saves the Town $275,000. It’s a good use of EOF money and if properly allocated & leveraged can provide $825,000 for infrastructure repairs.
The Agreement is a model for future initiatives where & when the interests of Golden align with those of Area A. It’s a good example of governments working together for the mutual benefit of their citizens.
The Town and Area A share costs and responsibility for the arena. Area A is doing a fantastic job saving money for future arena renovations/repairs.
The Town should adopt the Arena Savings Model. The Town hasn’t saved enough and can’t afford to participate in Federal & Provincial Infrastructure Cost Sharing Programs without incurring large amounts of new debt.
We can maintain existing programs & services and build for the future by working together, adopting sound financial management practices and limiting spending to priority items.
It’s the only way we and future generations will be able to enjoy a modern, well built community that offers programs like those you and I enjoy today.