Council had a few concerns with the Regional District of Kootenay-Boundary’s increase in its annual budget of 3.5 per cent, as Rossland has managed another year with zero increases.
Coun Tim Thatcher found the spending surprising.
“There’s a lot of money being spent,” Thatcher said. “I know we can’t control that but it seems out of control.”
Thatcher noted some of the big budget items, like the transit cost of almost $200,000.
“Are we really getting the value out of that?” he asked “I know its a touchy subject, but thats a big chunk of money, when you look at the ridership.”
Coun. Jill Spearn defended the transit saying that it helps people who don’t have the opportunity to drive.
“It addresses a segment of society, whether they be less fortunate or whether they choose to be green and take the bus or other reason like seniors,” Spearn said, adding that she noted to council years ago that Rossland could probably do with small busses, using the busses she saw in Mexico as example.
“The buses here are huge and they’re seemingly underused. It’s the format of the transportation that we might take issue with in my mind.
She noted that businesses in Rossland benefit from more transit to the city.
Coun. Jody Blomme agreed with Spearn.
“I think it’s very important that we have a transit system,” Blomme said. “Particularly for younger people who want to get places and who don’t have cars so we can’t take that away.”
She said that the city needs to come up with ways to encourage ridership.
Coun. Kathy Wallace, who represents Rossland at the RDKB, noted that Rossland did accept expansion of hours.
“So we have more buses coming to Rossland,” she said. “Every night of the week there is a 6:30 p.m. bus. That’s intended to encourage the commuters to take the bus.”
Wallace said that the public bus system is needed in the area, noting that it is very expensive.
“There is a review of transit and there will be a discussion coming from the East End to the province to say that urban planning doesn’t fit rural areas,” she said. “That’s part of the difficulty that we have – we have less population, we have greater geographical area, we have 2,000 ft. of elevation coming up this side and 500 ft. going up the other. The buses are determined by the province and that is part of the problem.”
Wallace said the city sized buses are full a couple of times a day when kids are off to school.
“Other times it is very frustrating watching the big, huge buses drive around with one or two people on them,” she said.
Wallace said the City of Trail brought forward a motion recently in response to the private taxi service that would have closed without Trail interceding.
She said there were suggestions of a public taxi service.
“We’ve got probably the most expensive taxis in the province and we have to wait a long time for them to come,” she said.
Mayor Greg Granstrom pointed out that Rossland pays the regional district about $1.4 million. The regional fire service has almost doubled that of Rossland’s budget to $430,000. Granstrom hoped that the RDKB would endeavour to keep the funds in line.
“It might also be interesting to point out that there is a 3.5 per cent increase in taxes from the regional district,” Granstrom said. “They’ve had continual increases.
“To me it seems like in a time of fiscal restraint by companies where employees have had to make sacrifices, that same fiscal restraint would be needed at our regional government.”