Burnaby council has until the end of August to provide input on what to do with a couple of billion dollars - much to the dismay of its mayor and councillors, as there's only one meeting at month's end.
The Union of B.C. Municipalities is responsible for administering the Gas Tax Fund in the province. It recently sent out a six-page survey for councils across the province to comment on a range of topics around what to do with the program's money.
But Coun. Colleen Jordan said Burnaby is one of the few councils in B.C. that actually meets in time before the Aug. 31 deadline.
"How are we supposed to respond with a consensus from this council for a document they put out in the last week of July before Aug. 31?" Jordan said at the July 22 meeting. "It's going to be very, very difficult to get legitimate positions of councils and information back to the (union)."
Mayor Derek Corrigan said it's ironic the union has only given councils across the province one month to determine the future of a billion dollars in investment.
"It's amazing the amount of information that is now on the website," Corrigan noted about the union's online presence, which for many years had little to no information about gas tax funds distribution. "It was a deep and dark secret for many years, in which if you sought information (they'd say) if they gave it to you, they'd have to kill you."
Corrigan noted his and Jordan's efforts over the years to get information from the union about gas tax administration costs and breakdowns on why certain things were funded over others.
"I've met with them and asked them to provide (us) with how the criteria of those allocations were given, to show me what the thought process was behind them to indicate how they did appoint scoring systems to be able to accommodate it," he said. "Now we're actually getting an opportunity to contribute to how that gas tax fund is spent in the future."
Jordan agreed with Corrigan and said it's been back and forth for two years with her and city staff aiding in her inquiries. "We've made some pretty significant discoveries and things actually quite disturbing to us," she said. "One thing we have accomplished through this whole process, (is) pretty much weekly now on their website there's something new about the gas tax - and (they're) putting out press releases on it and giving out info about its past history - things they haven't disclosed in the last 10 years." At the meeting, council decided to send a letter to the union, asking for a one-month deadline extension for the survey so other councils will have adequate opportunity to fill it out.
The Gas Tax Fund was a 10-year funding commitment from 2005 to 2014 of $2 billion per year between all levels of government to provide funding for municipal governments for eligible capital and planning projects such as public transit, infrastructure, energy and solid waste, among others.
The union is working on renewing the agreement before the current one ends.
For more information about the gas tax funds being distributed in B.C., visit www.ubcm.ca.
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