RDN budget discussions begin

·3 min read

Discussions around the 2022-26 Regional District of Nanaimo financial plan have begun with the first presentation of the part of the plan at the committee of the whole on Nov. 4.

The committee of the whole was most interested in the staffing changes proposed for 2022, 36.4 full-time equivalent positions, including 22 new and 14.4 converted positions currently classified as casual, contract or temporary. The conversion would come at a cost of $104,626.

Most of these proposed converted positions have been operating as full-time historically, CAO Doug Homes explained. Converting the positions will give those staff “access to benefits and certainty in scheduling.”

Holmes added the FTE positions will help the RDN compete with other jurisdictions for skilled workers and retain trained staff. One of the positions recommended to convert to FTE is a bylaw enforcement officer. The RDN has one officer per 18,000 in population. In comparison, Nanaimo has one per 7,000 and the Comox Valley Regional District has one per 7,600.

“For a number of years, positions that are required to meet current service levels have been deferred to future years,” the staff report presented at the COW says. Of the 22 new positions, 13 of them are to deliver existing service levels and nine would contribute to new service levels.

The estimated cost of the 22 positions comes with a tax impact of $1.9 million. Positions include a parks technician for regional parks, a parks planner for land management and a building official. The latter would be funded by building inspection permit fees. The parks planner position would focus on existing, outstanding and upcoming land use agreements. Bringing the position in-house intends to reduce the need to contract with land consultant agents.

Another new proposed position, a climate action special projects coordinator, who would be tasked with implementing the corporate carbon neutral 2032 plan, the climate action technical advisory committee’s priority actions, particularly home retrofits, and green building outreach.

Several RDN directors wanted more information from staff about the yearly salary increases for some of the new and converted staff positions as some have a 12 per cent salary increase year over year. Staff said further explanation would be forthcoming.

Among the new or changed service level proposals is an increase to the drinking water and watershed protection program in 2022 and 2023 to expand work around regional rainwater management and watershed natural assets. This would increase the parcel tax from $12 to $14 in 2022 and to $16 in 2023. Previously, the plan was to introduce that $4 increase in 2026. The advanced timeline is needed to “keep pace with community needs, the urgency of climate change and the emerging opportunities with partners,” the budget presentation documents say.

At a taxpayer cost of $160,681, the financial plan proposes a physical security assessment and enhanced onsite security coverage of RDN properties as well as space planning and a condition assessment for the Nanaimo administration building. The plan also proposes hiring an IT security analyst and operations technician. The positions would costs 303,367 in 2022.

The five-year financial plan will next be presented at a Nov. 23 meeting following board budget workshops. The proposed plan is slated for adoption on Dec. 7.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder

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