Legal costs, severance kibosh zero increase Cowichan Valley Regional District

Of nine regional budgets presented to Cowichan Valley Regional District directors Wednesday, seven of them came in with a zero per cent increase in cost, and only one came in with a significant increase.

Mark Kueber, corporate services manager, apprised the Regional Services Committee, which is made up of the members of the CVRD board, that in accordance with the board’s direction to staff last July, each budget was made with the goal of a zero per cent increase.

Several large items in the general government budget made that goal "unreachable", Kueber said, leading to an increase in requisition of $759,802.

The items in question included a $135,000 grant the CVRD has received in the past that they have not gotten a commitment on yet this year, so that amount has not been included in the budget, he said, and legal costs in the ongoing fight against South Island Aggregates importing contaminated soil to their site in the Shawnigan Lake watershed came in at more than $460,000 – significantly more than had been budgeted.

The CVRD is also still paying out part of a healthy severance package, which Kueber described as the highest he’s ever seen in his 20 years with the CVRD, to former CAO Warren Jones.

The other budget that came in over zero per cent was for the Kinsol Trestle, where the CVRD will increase the requisition by $8,839 for extensive maintenance work that is expected to take place in 2015. Kueber pointed out that the lion’s share of the money for that work, $85,000, is being raised through donations.

He also said there is some concern that while the Emergency 911 budget met the zero per cent increase this year, it was due to a transfer of funds from reserves.

The funds will be used to help fund capital works to 911 infrastructure.

The expense of 911 services is also expected to increase next year due to system changes. In this environment, continued zero per cent increases are not sustainable, Kueber said.

Director Rob Hutchins questioned whether the zero per cent increases have resulted in any expected loss in service, and Kueber assured him that is not the case.

The final regional budget, solid waste, will be reviewed at the new Regional Engineering Services Committee meeting.

Year-end figures for 2014 have not yet been finalized, but there are no big changes expected, Kueber’s report states.

All of the budgets passed and will now head to the Cowichan Valley Regional District board for approval.