Victim services funding

The Burns Lake and area victim services program is one step closer to getting a secure source of long-term funding.

The Burns Lake and area victim services program is one step closer to getting a secure source of long-term funding.

Gail Chapman, Chief Administrative Officer for the Regional District of Bulkley-Nechako (RDBN), announced Feb. 17 that voters in electoral areas B (Burns Lake Rural) and E (Francois/Ootsa Lake Rural) had consented to the Burns Lake and Area Victims’ Services Service Establishment Bylaw #1682, 2013 through the Alternative Approval Process (AAP).

According to Chapman, only 53 eligible voters in Electoral Area B, and 90 in Electoral Area E, voiced their opposition to the bylaw by filing signed elector response forms before the Feb. 14 deadline. To prevent adoption of the bylaw, at least 146 voters in Electoral Area B, or 109 in Electoral Area E, had to communicate their opposition to it by submitting the required form.

The consent of electors within the Village of Burns Lake, who are already funding the service, was not required.

The regional district used the AAP provisions of the local government act and community charter to obtain elector assent for the new bylaw rather than take it to referendum. The seldom-used process is sometimes employed when the proposal requiring elector approval is non-controversial or time-sensitive, and the costs of holding a full referendum are relatively small and less than the cost of service under consideration.

Bylaw 1682, which received three readings Nov. 21, will allow the regional district to requisition up to $20,000

the bylaw, the costs of the service will be split between the Village of Burns Lake (60 per cent), Electoral Area B (20 per cent), and Electoral Area E (20 per cent).

According to Hans Berndorff, financial administrator for the regional district, the bylaw could receive final adoption as early as March 20.

“If adopted on March 20, the service will be included in our taxation for 2014,” he noted.

Although the bylaw allows for a $20,000 requisition for victim services, it’s unlikely that taxpayers will be asked to contribute the maximum amount.

“If the bylaw is adopted on March 20, we will contribute $13,636 to the service in 2014,” Berndorff explained. “Because of other revenues from grants in lieu of taxes, we will only have to tax $11,470 (this year).”

Yet even if property owners are asked to contribute the maximum amount available under bylaw 1682, it shouldn’t put too large a dent in their pocket books. Prior to the AAP, regional district officials estimated that the owner of a $100,000 home in Burns Lake would only have to contribute $9.53 to keep the victim services program in operation. In the two rural areas, the estimated tax bill was even lower: $2.09 and $3.41 annually for the owners of similar homes in electoral areas B and E, respectively.

In general, local government officials are pleased with the outcome of last month’s AAP.

Burns Lake village council, which received the results at its Feb. 25 regular meeting, seemed more surprised by the number of AAP dissenters than the actual results.

“It is disappointing that so many people decided to vote against victim services,” noted VBL coun. John Illes. “It was also interesting to note that the number of people who decided to vote against the proposal was nearly identical to the total number of people who voted in the latest arena referendum – that involved much larger amounts of money.”

The AAP process followed a series of five public meetings held in January throughout electoral areas B, E, and the Village of Burns Lake.

The victim services program currently operates out of the Burns Lake RCMP detachment. It offers emotional and practical support, as well as other non-monetary assistance, to victims and witnesses of crime and other traumatic events.

The service is currently funded by the Village of Burns Lake and the Ministry of Justice, but funding from the ministry – which provided temporary financial aid after the 2012 explosion at Babine Forest Products – will soon expire.