The Cariboo Regional District is taking a number of steps after a financial review of the Barlow Creek Volunteer Fire Department identified purchases were made that had not been budgeted for in 2016 and 2017.
“The Board has authorized some additional resources, particularly for the fire departments, to work with the fire chiefs and the management of their financial responsibilities to ensure they have the tools, equipment, and supplies that they need in order to provide the essential services that they do but still maintaining the control that we need to have in terms of adopting a financial plan or a budget on an annual basis,” says Chief Administrative Officer John MacLean.
“That was the first step that we did.”
“We also reached out our suppliers to ensure that they understood the purchasing policies and procedures of the regional district that they complied with them as well. And lastly, we talked to our managers to ensure that they understood that these are important guidance documents that are adopted by the board of directors that represent taxpayer dollars to ensure that we never have this happen again.”
PMT Chartered Accountants completed a review on behalf of the Cariboo Regional District.
Their review according to a CRD news release is consistent with the findings of staff and indicates the expenses in the 2016 and 2017 budgets were typical expenses for operating a fire department, but purchases were made in higher quantities and on a more accelerated timeline than the budget outlined.
MacLean says the additional spending was mainly on training and development, equipment maintenance and repairs, fire hall maintenance, and the replacement of operating supplies.
“If someone makes promises on behalf of the regional district to make purchases, we will honor that promise,” MacLean says.
“The budget is meant to be a guide, it’s meant to be a very strong guide to all of our managers and in this case, it was somewhat disregarded.”
Due to the service’s expenses being significantly higher than budgeted in both 2016 and 2017, the Barlow Creek Fire Protection service saw a 30 percent tax increase in 2018 and 2 percent increases in 2019 through 2023.
The CRD says it has worked with the Provincial Government to make the tax burden as manageable as possible by allowing the service to recover the deficit over a five-year period from 2018 to 2023.
“At that point, we will be in the position to reevaluate and take a look at the financial plan to see if there is an opportunity to reduce taxation because we will have taken care of any of the deficit that occurred in 2017,” MacLean says.
A letter has been sent to all residents within the Barlow Creek Fire Protection Area explaining the financial review of the budget.
The CRD is also hosting a multi-agency information fair on Tuesday, May 14, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. at the Barlow Creek Hall.