Prospective councillors discuss Golden’s future investment opportunities

Town of Golden: Council candidates answer a question about future investment.

  • Nov. 6, 2014 3:00 p.m.

Candidates for Council

Do you think Golden should be cutting back on expenses, or investing in the future? Specifically, in what areas would you like to see reductions, and/or what areas would you like to see investment?

Leslie Adams

Our municipality’s financial reports confirm that our community is in good financial shape. The current council has put together a sound plan to ensure that we have funds in the future for upgrades, replacements and emergencies for our current infrastructure. And one of the first tasks of the new council will be the budget process, a public process that I hope community members will get involved in.

I feel comfortable with our current level of spending, but I would like to continue exploring cost-sharing with CSRD on services that residents throughout the area use.

I also feel that it is important that we make economic development a priority. I believe that we could work with Invest East Kootenay, but I believe that the town should also contribute to our own economic development with staff resources.

My investment priorities would include supports to local services, by continuing to work with clubs, non- profit organizations and private businesses to keep social service, cultural and recreational costs down for residents. These are the resources in our commun- ity that bind us together, and make this a great place to live.

Connie Barlow

I try to view planned expenditures as investments – investments in plans, infrastructure and people. Council and staff are continually pressured to maintain or reduce budgets each year. However, inflation continues to push upward.

General across-the-board cuts to expenditures in the short term often results in expensive unplanned expenditures in the long- term, which costs taxpayers more. The benefit of well-planned investment can far outweigh the initial cost.

Infrastructure and facilities that are not being utilized and are nearing the end of their life cycle can be considered candidates for cutting.

Infrastructure that is critical and facilities that are essential to local residents need to be supported for today’s operating expenses and for future contingencies.

Attracting and retaining the staff that can best serve our community is critical to our long-term viability.It is cheaper to retain staff than it is to attract new ones. In my next term, I would like to see the Town support the creation of a community or social coordinator.

When the polls open, I hope voters see their engagement in the democratic process as an investment in Golden’s future.

Lori Baxendale

I don’t believe citizens of Golden want a reduction in our quality of life. Investing in the future means investing in Local/ Community Economic Development (CED), as a coordinated, coherent, funded, collaborative process between all levels of government and non-government organizations that builds up the economic and social capacity of Golden and Area A to improve its future productivity and overall quality of life.

A community’s choice to engage and invest in CED strategies is a reflection of the self-worth it holds. To not invest implies we don’t value building up the capacity of Golden to maintain and improve our future.

The EOF (Economic Opportunity Fund) can serve our community, funding specialist, professional, focused, prioritized CED, to chart a course developing attraction strategies bringing entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, outside of the box innovators, who will contribute to the diversity, flexibility, character and sustainability of business and employment in Golden. Attract families increasing school enrolment, increase the usage of rec facilities, increase the tax base.

We lost CED Dec 31st 2013. Time to get back to the table, time to agree on and rebuild a model, time to re-invest in the future, time to innovate on all Golden has to offer.

Jim deBolebec

One can cut expenses and still invest in the future. Two recent examples of this took place when funding for Kicking Horse Culture and the swimming pool changed from local taxation to the Economic Opportunities Fund. This freed up money that can be used to leverage additional support from the Federal Government under the New Building Canada Fund.

Cutting expenses does not have to be a negative. It can be utilizing what money you have in a more conservative cost effective way. Reducing printing costs is a good example. Printing most documents in black and white would see a 30% cost reduction. Another example has been combining the CAO with Manager of Corporate Services eliminating one paid position.

When expenses are reduced without cutting services, additional investment can be made in future projects without increasing debt.

Andrew Commons

Cutting expenses and investing in the future is not an either or scenario.

We need to think in terms of how to manage our current needs while planning for the future.

My approach for the future is three pronged: Management, Planning, and Partnerships:

• We need to invest in our current needs that meet our future opportunities. Successfully managing our long-term sustainability is built on the foundation of the Town’s physical and service assets. As the custodians of the Town’s assets, the Council’s priority is to provide sound financial investments today in their maintenance so they continue to provide future benefits.

• Along with sound management of our assets, we need to invest in planning our future by updating our Official Community Plan and simplifying the Planning & Zoning Bylaw.

• Finally, we need to invest in partnerships. Shared Service Agreements with Area A provides a starting point to building sustainable community services and effectively managed assets that benefit everyone.

By laying a foundation of sound management, good planning, and strong partnerships today, they will build our path to the future.

Vote Andrew Commons for Town Council.

Janet Crandall

We should always be doing both – evaluating expenses and planning and investing in the future. These things should always be top of mind when considering the routine decision-making.

Priorities are best served when things are run like a business. Because, after all, managing the Town’s affairs is a business. Decisions should be made based on how they will affect us long-term. Will we meet our overall revenue objectives for the year? Do we have enough to cover our bills? It’s a basic principle – do we have enough money to do the things we need to do. And, are we saving for unexpected circumstances?

Managing a business effectively teaches you the importance of staying in touch with your financials, not just annually but quarterly and monthly, so that if and when something unexpected happens, changes can be made to get back on track to meet whatever goals were set.

It shouldn’t be a question of being a ‘have’ or ‘have not’ community, when we’re making a shopping list for the town. When we ‘have’ enough money to meet our responsibilities and then some, great. If we ‘have not’ enough money, then we must not spend unnecessarily, and absolutely must reduce expenses.

Bruce Fairley

This is not the time to increase operating expenses in the Town of Golden, which are already higher in our community than other comparable communities. Rossland,which has virtually the same population as ourselves, has an operating budget at least 50% lower than Golden’s. We continue to spend funds unwisely – the new sign at the arena being a prime example. The bike share program and a grass parking lot at the United Church which had to be torn out were money totally wasted. Some rationalization of staffing may be necessary. Our CAO probably has too many tasks to perform, yet we are carrying the position of a full time bylaw enforcement officer.

On the capital side, however, we are going to have to start spending on infrastructure. Our water, sewer and roads cost about $77,000,000 historically and we now have an infrastructure deficit of at least $30,000,000. Our basic infrastructure dates from the mid-60s and the town has been spending almost nothing to upgrade or refurbish it. Areas likely needing attention over the next four years are sewer and drainage and the road through the Alexander Park subdivision. The Rotary Trail needs some investment and we should get after the Province to improve the Mount Seven Road.

Chris Hambruch

One of the roles of local government is the provision of services. Typically these services cannot be supported in a conventional business model. Take water, sewer, and roads for example. On a collective basis with tax dollars and user fees they’ve been built and operated successfully. We do need to continue the provision of the existing services and provide significant investment to ensure they will continue.

I believe that “WE”, Golden and AreaA, Kicking Horse Country, need to invest in the provision of communication infrastructure to get us from the current 3rd world connection speed of 6Mbps to 50Mbps or better. This is an initiative that has been talked about for several years with very little improvement in service. While I am not suggesting this should be funded by local tax dollars, I do believe that the elected representatives need to lead the charge and make it happen. There are community network models that could be adapted and utilized. We have lots of local talent that can provide expertise to get the job done. I believe that with a combination of Columbia Basin Trust, Economic Opportunity Funds, Columbia Basin Broadband Corporation, and local service providers “WE” can make this happen.

Serge Lamarche

Cutting back or investing in the future. Why or ? It is like asking to save money or spend some. Of course a good budget can do both at the same time. If I refer to Bruce Fairley’s paper, to which I give an A+ for revealing the flaws of the previous team, huge amounts of money were squandered.

Simply avoiding the temptations to spend on fancy and expensive yet unproductive items would easily re-equilibrate the finances of the town. I am not talking about avoiding all interesting experiments. Maybe just the costly ones.

Investing in the future means today using the funds responsibly so that the future won’t be taxed 🙂 as much. Maybe reducing the debt load would save millions for the future. As a tourism destination, maybe the town should cleverly spend on the variety of destinations attracting visitors. Small amounts well placed may prove more effect- ive. Maybe make the town more attractive to other kind of business if there are some hindrances. Maybe study the possibility of improving flood resilience from the Columbia. Global warming is sure to increase the occurrences of atmospheric rivers like the one flooding Calgary. I am confident and open to suggestions.

Eddie Leigan

The answer here is not investing or cutting…Going forward Golden needs a balanced approach.

We need to have an attractive community that people want to come to and want to stay in. Who wants to move to a community that is closing doors and cutting services? That’s like hopping onto a ship taking on water… We need to invest in the future, we need to continue to create a community that is friendly to people of all ages and stages of life, from newborns to seniors and all ages in between.

Now, because I have said I want to invest in the future don’t think I don’t care about the bottom line or the finances. We need to make that balance of investing in programs and fixing old infrastructure, to building reserves and saving for the rainy days that we all experience. Cut- ting sounds terrible… but unfortunately is something that happens.

If something doesn’t work, or is not benefiting the community of course I am willing to cut those things back and put those funds to better use. This is a very hard question to answer in 200 words. For more info contact me or see my Facebook page.

Caleb Moss

Although this question is posed as an either/or, my answer is a both/and. Part of being diligent, and fiscally responsible as a councillor should always involve limiting superfluous expenses. At the same time, my job is to maintain and create community infrastructure. Fiscally responsible leadership chooses when to spend cash reserves, strategically uses borrowing to build, and understands that community benefits are founded on sound investments.

I will continue to advocate for new investment into a regionally funded economic development function and would also like us to take a hard look at some of our current financial agreements (such as the Historical Society) that lack tangibly contracted deliverables. Both of these areas carry tremendous potential to greater capitalize on existing assets. In terms of reductions, I would love to see a cessation in the erroneous statements being perpetuated by folks who choose to fear monger concerning town balance sheet. We are in no way, shape, or form in dire financial straits. We have an excellent management team and a top notch CFO in Lisa Vass. We are actually ahead of the curve in many aspects. Unsubstantiated and context-less spouting as election platform is, quite frankly, irresponsible and just plain wrong.

Bob Munro

This campaign is not about cutting Programs/ Services or costs. It’s about fiscal responsibility.

It’s about maintaining/ enhancing programs & services at an affordable price while investing for the future so our children & grandchildren will enjoy the same benefits we do today.

Unfortunately the majority of current councillors, 1 candidate for Mayor & 3 other candidates for council don’t believe we have a financial problem.

They’ve spent $800,000 more than the Town received in revenue over the last 2 years. They’ve annually spent $1,000,000 more than comparable communities in the Kootenays and southern Okanagan.

They’ve left little or no money for improvements to our roads, sewer & water systems, our river dykes, swimming pool, parks, trails & buildings like the Rec Plex, Civic Centre & Town Hall.

These Councillors spent $300,000 on Bridge to Bridge, want to spend $2-3 million on Bridge to Bridge 2, $500,000-$800,000 on a permanent stage in Spirit Square and many more non-essential projects.

I want to maintain existing services/programs & invest in Town infrastructure.

It’s the only way seniors, our younger citizens & future generations will enjoy the same quality of life we have today at a cost that is affordable and realistic.