Rossland keeps the faith with regional economic development

Rossland keeps the faith with regional economic development

The city will entertain another year of regional economic development service without any additional taxation.

The city will entertain another year of regional economic development service without any additional taxation.

In a Nov. 19 resolution the East End Services committee (EES)—of which Rossland is a member—agreed to enter into a new one-year agreement with the Lower Columbia Community Development Team (LCCDT) for the provision of economic development services for the 2014 calendar year.

However, in the wake of cancellation of that service earlier this year, the current amount of surplus funds (estimated at $140,000) will cover the cost to operate the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC), and not draw upon any new tax dollars.

That money was initially supposed to return to the regional district at the end of the year, said Rossland regional district director Kathy Wallace.

“But the LCDDT and the LCIC finally feel they have momentum and that they would like to continue, so they were requesting that they would be able to keep those funds and continue,” she said.

In March the East End Economic Development Service agreed to not renew the contract with the LCIC. In previous years the LCIC, through the LCCDT, received almost $250,000 per year.

Wallace said the service had “not been using all of those funds, due to slow start up and not finding an economic development officer” right away.

The EES contributed $224,000 per year to the LCIC, with Rossland taxpayers shelling out over $40,000 per year.

The service agreement for 2014 has not been drawn so Wallace was not sure how the money would be used. She wanted to see wording in the new agreement that the LCIC would secure funds either directly from business in the area, or from some other place, and not assume a future service would be completely taxpayer funded.

“I have a little bit of a frustration with economic development being completely on the backs of taxpayers,” she said. “I don’t think it’s fair for it to be completely a taxpayer burden.

“It gets into a real philosophical issue with the spin of economic development being beneficial for the community as a whole.”

For a senior on a fixed income trying to stay in their home, she said, economic development isn’t something they should have to pay for.

From Rossland’s perspective there are a few bodies that are already working on similar projects—the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Rossland and the Sustainability Commission’s economic development task force—and it was deemed to be unnecessary overlap.

And with the current debate raging in Rossland City council chambers over core services and the level of taxation in the city, the topic of funding something that was immeasurable to such an extent was superfluous, said Wallace.

“There is a big focus right now on what is a core service, what should we be taxing for and there is a hesitancy of burdening local taxpayers with a responsibility that might be someone else’s,” she said. “It was recognized that (the cost) was higher than it needed to be.”

The LCIC was set up as part of the Lower Columbia Community Development Team society (LCCDT) to focus economic development services within the region.

The EES is made up of five municipalities—Rossland, Trail, Warfield, Montrose and Fruitvale—and electoral areas A and B.