No rural freeriders: FVRD

Rural residents of the Fraser Valley Regional District are going to pay more in total tax requisitions than municipal residents in 2011, according to a FVRD financial report.

Which should end the “free riders” charge leveled by the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce when it lobbied that city to pull out of the FVRD.

“We don’t owe the municipalities diddly-squat,” Dick Bogstie, head of the FVRD’s Community & Regulatory Services Committee (formerly the Electoral Area Services Committee) and the director in Area F, said Tuesday.

He agreed Abbotsford and other municipalities in the region were “probably subsidizing the electoral areas to some extent” before the funding formula was changed as part of a major restructuring of the regional government.

Taxes collected from the seven electoral areas of the FVRD will total $6.5 million in 2011, compared to the total $5.3 million requisitioned from the six municipalities, according to the report.

Last year, municipal members paid $6.6 million while $5.7 million was collected from the electoral areas.

Bogstie said the requisition in electoral areas is going up “based on a very complicated formula of who does what and who gets what.”

For instance, electoral areas are charged for space and staff at the regional office building, unlike municipal members who have their own city halls.

Taxes are also collected only if a rural area or a municipality takes part in a service provided by the regional district. The more services, the more tax is requisitioned.

Bogstie said electoral area directors recognized residents in their areas could be hit with “horrendous” tax increases under the new formula, so they worked to pare down the FVRD’s budget “so the pain to the rural tax payer ... is absolutely as minimal as we can make it.”

Under a re-structuring of the regional government, $450,000 in savings was made through a “limited” hiring freeze, which saw a number of staff positions eliminated by attrition rather than lay-offs.

The number of committees was also reduced as the FVRD “recast” its operations into two divisions, the Regional and Corporate Services and Community and Regulatory Services.

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