The Village of Burns Lake is taking steps to improve its transparency this budget season.
According to council members, administrative wages have not been clearly identifiable in the village’s budget reports. During a budget meeting earlier this year, council requested that administrative wages be reported separately in the future.
Burns Lake’s new director of finance Susan Meeds explains in a recent report that the village’s current accounting system is not well structured for reporting wages separately.
“In many cases, the wages are lumped in with materials and other costs for the various activities,” she said.
Meeds said she plans to gradually revise the system over the next year to make it “more suitable for the current reporting environment.”
“Once this is complete, the wages will be shown separately for each activity,” she said.
In the interim, a separate report on wages will be presented to council for review during upcoming budget meetings.
Burns Lake’s 2017 budget included a 1.5 per cent increase to all staff wages. Although union staff were entitled to a 1.5 per cent increase as per their union agreement, non-union staff were not.
The 1.5 per cent wage increase to union staff will cost the municipality an additional $12,500 per year while the 1.5 per cent wage increase to non-union staff will cost the village approximately $10,000 per year.
Some of Burns Lake’s staff wages have significantly increased over the past decade. Burns Lake’s chief administrative officer received $72,493 in 2006; $97,375 in 2009; and $115,460 in 2015. The village’s director of protective services received $60,637 in 2006; $72,420 in 2009; and $87,062 in 2015.
The wage rise over the years has been justified as bringing Burns Lake wages in line with other B.C. communities of similar size and population.
Earlier this year, Burns Lake councillors expressed concerns over an “unusual” financial transaction in the village’s financial statements. The statement in question was a loan in the amount of $80,000 to the Lakes District Family Enhancement Society (LDFES).
The village was acting as a financial intermediary between LDFES and granting agencies so that the funds could be passed on to the society. However, the loan was provided to LDFES before any grant funding was received by the municipality.
Councillor Michael Riis-Christianson said transactions of this type could expose the municipality to “unacceptable levels of risk.”