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Former Abbotsford mayor backs Fraser Valley Regional District

Former Abbotsford Mayor George Ferguson doesn’t think the city has thought things through regarding the Fraser Valley Regional District.

In January, council voted to examine the viability of opting out of the FVRD in favour of becoming a single tier governance. The process could take two years to complete and requires provincial approval. City staff believe the move could save Abbotsford taxpayers between $800,000 and $1.4 million each year.

“No municipality can be an island and function,” said Ferguson.

He said the regional system is a good one, though he admits it could use a few improvements. What he doesn’t like is the way those improvement could come about.

“Raising this issue (leaving) and causing a lot of fuss isn’t how you do it. If you want change, you sit down and talk about it,” said Ferguson.

Abbotsford pays more than $3 million a year to the FVRD, more than half the organization’s total budget. Critics say the city is over charged because it doesn’t get the money back in services.

“We don’t pay any more per se than anybody else. We pay more because we have the largest population. That’s as fair as you can get,” said Ferguson.

He’s also convinced the province will never let Abbotsford become an entity unto itself.

“If they aren’t in the FVRD, then they’ll become part of Metro ... and I don’t think Abbotsford will play a very big role there.

“It is the elected people who make the final decision, not staff,” said Ferguson.

Meanwhile, the district is making attempts to sway Abbotsford’s decision.

Recently, the FVRD began a restructuring process that it says will save taxpayers from Abbotsford to Boston Bar about $450,000 this year.

Abbotsford will see FVRD taxes drop by $715,736 (28 per cent) in 2011 to $1.7 million from $2.5 million in 2010. Average homeowners will see the FVRD portion of their tax bill drop to $29.04 from $40.76 in 2010 - a 28.7 per cent reduction.

Abbotsford city manager Frank Pizzuto said the restructuring process is a good thing for all the communities in the FVRD, but it won’t stop Abbotsford from taking a look at other possibilities.

“We will continue to see if there are better options that make more sense for us. But, it is a good start,” he said.

The FVRD consists of six municipalities – Abbotsford, Mission Chilliwack, Hope, Kent and Harrison – and eight electoral areas. Some of the services provided include 911 calling and fire dispatch, mosquito control, planning and garbage collection.

 

- with files from Robert Freeman

 

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