Barlow Creek Fire Hall on Aird Road. April Cameron photo

Residents to foot the bill for “substantial overrun” of Barlow Creek Fire Department’s 2017 budget

Taxes for residents of the Barlow Creek Fire Protection Service area are set to increase for the 2018-2022 five-year financial plan.

Cariboo Regional District electoral area C director John Massier said there was a “substantial overrun” of the fire department’s budget last year.

“Going forward, the taxes will have to increase over the next five years to cover that shortfall. I am working with our regional board and our staff to see if there are ways we can reduce the impact of that spending,” said Massier.

The tax increases will affect 836 properties in the area.

The Barlow Creek Fire Protection Service taxes increased by 30 per cent (from $101,651 to $126,334) in 2018, as compared to 2017, confirmed Emily Epp, CRD manager of communications. The tax requisition is set to increase an additional two per cent in each of the final four years of the 2018 five-year financial plan, as approved by the CRD’s board in March 2018.

On an individual level, the 2018 residential tax rate for the service area is $77.75 per $100,000 of net taxable assessed value of improvements only for each property, which compares to a rate of $59.81 for year 2017.

For a house valued at $200,000 (improvements only, excluding the land value) the taxes would be $180.28 in 2018 compared to $144.40 in 2017, which is an increase of $35.88, or approximately 25 per cent, according to Epp.

Barlow Creek Fire Protection Service residents also pay a parcel tax of $24.78 in each year of the 2018 five-year financial plan, which Epp is unchanged from the 2017 parcel tax rate.

Epp confirmed service area residents are seeing the increase due to expenses being higher than budgeted in 2017.

The CRD says the additional spending was on training, equipment and maintenance for the fire department.

“With that being said, the CRD takes this kind of financial situation seriously and we do not want to see overspending in our services. We are reviewing and improving our financial management systems with all our fire departments to ensure that our budgets accurately reflect the true costs of operating a fire department and that expenses stay within our revenues,” said Epp via email.

Massier told the Observer that as a CRD director, he is brought in for yearly budget discussions and to help set priorities for the department, but is not involved in the day-to-day budgeting for the fire department.

“That’s between the fire chief and his department and our local manager of protection services and the staff in Williams Lake,” he said.

Barlow Creek resident Cody Dillabough was fire chief of the Barlow Creek Fire Department during 2017, when the expenses occurred. He did not reply to the Observer’s request for comment.

In August, Dillabough was confirmed to have had his appointment as Barlow Creek Volunteer Fire Department chief rescinded by the Cariboo Regional District, after the CRD made public a resolution from a July 13 in-camera board meeting.

“Any issues related to Mr. Dillabough, in his time as chief in Barlow Creek VFD, are a personnel matter, and we will not discuss further. I can confirm that the board of directors rescinded his appointment as chief of the Barlow Creek VFD,” CRD chief administrative officer John MacLean told the Observer via email on Sept. 21, 2018.

“Going forward all we can do is make sure that sort of thing doesn’t repeat itself for Barlow Fire Department, or any other fire department for that matter,” said Massier.

“It boils down to there was a budget for the department and the budget was overspent.”

Barlow Creek Fire Department currently has 18 members, including fire chief Jerrod Dreveski and deputy chief Lee Stone.

Dreveski responded via email that he could not comment on the matter.

“All I can tell you is I’m the new chief and there are measures in place so it can not happen again,” he wrote.

The CRD does a five-year financial plan each year, which is adopted by bylaw before the end of March.

“At this point in time, we are in the preliminary stages of developing the 2019-2023 five year financial plan. New budgeted tax requisition amounts in the new five year plan will be determined and should be in line with amounts budgeted a year ago, unless actual revenues and expenditures for 2018 are significantly different than the budgeted amounts used a year ago,” said Epp via email.

The provisional 2019-2023 plan will be made available for public consultation at the last board meeting of the year in December 2018.

READ MORE: Cody Dillabough drops out of race for Quesnel City Council

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