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Kamloops will receive $15 million from Growing Communities Fund

The money cannot be used to reduce this year’s tax rate increase unless spent on capital projects in the budget being funded by tax dollars
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The City of Kamloops is receiving a one-time windfall of more than $15 million that it can use to pay for infrastructure and other capital projects as part of its share of $1 billion the provincial government is sending to municipalities from the $5.7-billion surplus.

All of B.C.’s 188 municipalities and regional districts are receiving funding from the $1-billion Growing Communities Fund in order to pay for new infrastructure and amenities, such as recreation facilities, transit services, parks and water treatment plants. The province announced the fund in mid-February and grants will be distributed to municipalities and regional districts by the end of March, with totals calculated based on a funding formula that reflects population size and growth.  

The City of Kamloops will receive $15,692,000 from the fund.

Local governments are responsible for determining how the grants will be allocated based on their needs. City of Kamloops CAO David Trawin told KTW that allocation is something council will need to determine.

Trawin said the $15 million cannot be used to reduce this year’s tax rate increase unless spent on capital projects in the budget being funded by tax dollars, which this fund is allowed to cover. That could mean the funds may be applicable to some of the 10 supplemental budget items city council is considering this week.

“Typically, our tax rate is because of our growth in operational costs, not capital costs,” Trawin said. He added that while he has yet to see the exact spending requirements, he knows it is meant to be put towards infrastructure to accommodate growth in Kamloops over the last five years.

“Council has asked us to put a list of everything that’s in every plan or anything that might be coming forward in the next five, 10 years, anyway, that we may need money on,” Trawin said.

He said once that list is drawn up, council will review and decide on how to spend the $15 million.

Kamloops Mayor Reid Hamer-Jackson told KTW he will be discussing with council how the money should be spent and did not wish to disclose it beforehand.

“You’ve got to be happy when you’ve got $15.6 million put in the till, right?” Hamer-Jackson said.

Prior to the announced funding, Coun. Mike O’Reilly told KTW that while the government’s funding will be a boon, what the city really needs is land on which to build housing. He pointed to vacant property the province owns at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Columbia Street downtown as an example of land the province should consider providing the city for development of housing.

All local governments are required to report on the use of funds in their annual audited financial statements. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs will provide further guidance to municipalities and regional districts on the use of their funds in the coming weeks.

“We’re providing the single-largest provincial investment in communities in B.C.’s history,” Premier David Eby said in a release.

TNRD has many needs for funds

The Thompson-Nicola Regional District is receiving $5.4 million from the fund.

Regional District CAO Scott Hildebrand told KTW that he is expecting to get the full details on specifically what the funding is available for and any other requirements that may be part of the grant.

“We will then take a full report to the board to better understand how they would like to utilize the funding, along with some specific direction on projects or initiatives,” Hildebrand said.

He said the funding comes at just the right time as the board is developing its strategic plan. He said the TNRD has many capital infrastructure projects for which funding is desperately needed, along with helping boost its depleting reserves for future projects.

Hildebrand said the TNRD’s 11 water services are in desperate need of upgrades, noting emergency planning and response is another priority area for the funds, while TNRD fire departments — and future departments— would benefit from the funding, as well.

Dollars doled out based on population and growth

The distribution formula used to hand out the $1-billion Growing Communities Fund was pegged at an initial $500,000 per municipality or district, with further adjustments made for population size and per-capita population growth between 2016 and 2021, based on BC Stats data. This method considers the impacts of service and amenity demands on smaller and rural communities and the additional pressures experienced by faster-growing communities, according to the provincial government.

Among comparably sized cities, Kamloops ($15,692,000) received more than Prince George ($12,498,000), but less than Chilliwack ($16,392,000) and Nanaimo ($16,088,000). Kelowna, the largest city in the Interior, received $26,228,000. Rural communities surrounding Kamloops received a few million dollars: Ashcroft ($1,076,000), Barriere ($1,316,000), Logan Lake ($1,538,000), Merritt ($2,891,000) and Sun Peaks ($1,151,000).