According to a recent report on municipal spending by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), Burns Lake was the best performer in northwest B.C. and the tenth best in the province.
The B.C. Municipal Spending Watch 2017 report ranked municipalities against one another. The rank was calculated through an even split between two different measures – a municipality’s 2005 to 2015 spending increase and its 2015 per-person spending level.
In general, municipalities with a large upward spending trend and a high current spending level received a poor rank, while a municipality with a low spending level and low or downward trend received a good ranking.
Between 2005 and 2015, operational spending in Burns Lake decreased by 29 per cent.
Burns Lake Mayor Chris Beach said the village has taken many measures to reduce spending over the years.
“Council is always mindful of spending while determining the need for capital infrastructure improvements,” he said. “As well, Village of Burns Lake staff do a great job managing the finances and are always fiscally responsible.”
According to CFIB, excessive growth in operating spending by local governments leads to higher taxes, which in turn puts pressure on local commerce and stifles job growth.
“For local governments, the choice is clear: address their growth in operational spending now or leave a greater burden for future governments to deal with,” notes the report.
“While a select few can be commended for their efforts to control expenditures, it is important to highlight that spending habits above sustainable levels have a direct financial burden on British Columbians, and furthermore the small businesses who live to support and grow our economy,” adds the report.
Earlier this year, councillor Kelly Holliday questioned if not raising taxes was necessarily good for Burns Lake, as it could also mean that the municipality is not making enough investments.
“If we’re only raising taxes to one per cent, or not raising them at all, we’re getting behind,” she said in April. “It’s making it very difficult for us to save money for future projects or to replace infrastructure or repair infrastructure as it breaks.”
Only seven out of 152 municipal governments in B.C. have kept operational spending at or below levels of inflation plus population growth over the 10-year period. No major municipal government with more than 25,000 residents made the list.
According to CFIB, on average, a family of four in B.C. could have saved $7842 in municipal taxes over a 10-year term if municipal operating spending had been held in line with that benchmark.
Mayor Beach added that he feels positive about the what the future holds for Burns Lake.
“Council has embarked on an economic diversification path that will allow us to support community organizations and initiatives,” he said, referring to the Lakes District economic diversification committee, which was created to find ways to reduce the impacts of declining timber supply.