The Cariboo Regional District is hiring an external auditor to conduct a financial audit of the Barlow Creek Fire Protection service budgets from the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years.
The decision was made in an in-camera board meeting and then released to the public. It followed the release of an article in the Observer about a new tax increase for residents of the Barlow Creek Fire Protection service area.
Taxes in the area are set to increase — first by 30 per cent from 2017 to 2018, then by an additional two per cent per year, in the 2018-2022 five year financial plan — following a “substantial overrun” of the fire department’s budget last year.
The decision to hire an external auditor was already in consideration before the release of the article, says Emily Epp, the manager of communications for the CRD. But, she adds, the decision was “pushed along” by the response from the public, following the release of the article.
“It was something that we were considering,” says Epp. “It has been a long time in the works as we have been reviewing the expenses. I would say it’s a combination of what we were thinking and hearing from the public, and realizing that they’re hoping for a more thorough financial audit.”
A press release from the CRD says that “upon initial investigation, the additional spending was mainly on training, equipment and maintenance for the fire department.”
In the press release, chief administrative officer (CAO) John MacLean says the CRD has conducted an initial review of the expenses, “but there are some questions that remain unanswered.”
He goes on to say the audit is not about “pointing fingers or finding blame,” but that the CRD has a responsibility to be “good stewards of the public’s money and provide financial oversight.”
After the review is completed, Epp says it will come back to the board of directors and they will decide the next steps.