After receiving zero opposition forms, the Cariboo Regional District (CRD) will be moving forward with the purchase of three new fire engines this year.
In March and April, the CRD held alternative approval processes (AAP) to use 10-year debt financing to purchase fire engines for the Forest Grove, Kersley and Lone Butte volunteer fire departments (VFD). According to a press release from the CRD, which was sent out May 1, the regional district did not receive any opposition forms.
“I am really pleased at the success of these alternative approval processes,” Margo Wagner, CRD Chair and Director of Area H, which includes the Forest Grove VFD, said in the release. “Our main goal was to save our taxpayers some money, as AAPs are more cost-effective than referendums. However, we also wanted to make sure residents understood what was happening and felt informed. With the engagement we saw, I think that was the case.”
The CRD is moving to a 10-year debt financing model for purchasing fire trucks. This new model spreads out the purchasing cost, creates the least impact on tax rates and helps the fire department build up savings for future maintenance and truck replacements, according to the CRD.
Because local governments need residents’ permission to enter into debt financing arrangements longer than five years, each purchase requires public permission. If the public didn’t give its permission, the CRD would purchase the trucks through its former five-year financing model.
An alternative approval process is a “reverse” form of public assent where the proposed change will go ahead unless at least 10 per cent of the eligible voters submit a signed Elector Response Form saying they are against the proposal.
April 16 was the deadline to submit Elector Response Forms in opposition to purchasing the trucks through 10-year financing for the three volunteer fire departments.
Over the next five years, the Regional District will be replacing 14 fire trucks for its fire departments. The CRD held a referendum in the Interlakes Fire Protection Area last summer for their 2019 and 2021 truck replacements and chose AAPs for the Forest Grove, Kersley and Lone Butte VFDs.
Public assent processes, likely AAPs, are expected to be held before the end of 2019 for the Deka Lake, 150 Mile House and Barlow Creek VFDs.
“We are taking a big-picture approach with our fire departments,” said Wagner. “By co-ordinating a bulk purchasing agreement with standard yet customizable trucks, by adjusting our purchasing model to 10-year financing and by using a consistent approach with our public assent processes, we are working to keep the tax impacts manageable for each fire department’s truck replacement.”
Each engine/pumper truck will cost about $400,000, and because the Kersley department has $150,000 available in capital reserves to contribute towards the purchase, the CRD will only be borrowing the remaining $250,000 required.
Under the 10-year financing model, the Kersley Fire Protection Area is seeing inflationary tax increases only over the next five-year financial plan (2019-23) with a 2.5-per-cent tax increase each year. If the fire truck was purchased with five-year financing, a 15-per-cent tax increase would be required in 2019.