SCIF Payments, Public Sector Compensation Feature in Budget

On Tuesday, Finance Minister Mike de Jong tabled Budget 2015, announcing a budget surplus of $879 million in 2014-15.   The budget also outlines accelerated payments of $40 million under the Strategic Community Investment Funds (SCIF) program in 2014/15 without reducing overall funding for SCIF over the three-year plan.    

Additional surplus forecasts were forecasted for all three years of the fiscal plan - $284 million in 2015/16, $376 million in 2016/17, and $399 million in 2017/18.  The budget relies on continued economic growth, with forecasts of 2.3% in 2015, 2.4% in 2016, and 2.3% in 2017, as well as continued spending discipline within provincial ministries and service delivery agencies.

Budget details of interest to local governments include:

Local Government Finance

  • Budget 2015 outlines accelerated payments of $40 million under the Strategic Community Investment Funds (SCIF) program in 2014/15, which will impact the Traffic Fine Revenue Sharing and Small Community Grant payments.
  • The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development has assured UBCM that despite the accelerated payments, there will be no reduction in the ‘base’ amount for SCIF over the three year plan.  Additional clarification from the Ministry will be forthcoming.
  • The maximum tax rate on the purchase of accommodation under the Municipal and Regional District Tax Program that may be imposed in a designated accommodation area is increased from two (2) to three (3) percent of the purchase price of accommodation.

Public Sector Compensation

  • Budget 2015 highlights the Province’s continued focus on managing public sector compensation, referencing the 2014 BC Public Sector Compensation Review.
  • The budget states that the ‘provincial government is pursuing opportunities to work with the Union of BC Municipalities to address the principle of appropriate compensation in a local government context within the broader public sector, promote best practices, and help local governments deliver efficient, effective services for citizens.’  
  • Budget 2015 notes that ‘the initial focus is on building reliable data to assist local governments to set appropriate compensation levels, and to make existing reporting of local government information more useful, transparent, and accessible.’
  • Note:  At its February meeting, the UBCM Executive had a preliminary discussion on reviewing the issue of compensation with the Province.  UBCM staff was directed to develop a terms of reference on the issue for consideration by the UBCM Presidents Committee, with a focus on data collection, benchmarking, and best practices.

Infrastructure

  • Budget 2015 outlines continued investment of $2.9 billion in transportation investments, which includes projects such as the Evergreen Line Rapid Transit, Highway 97 - Cariboo Connector, and Highway 1 – Mountain Highway Interchange.
  • The budget does not include new funding allocated for the Building Canada Fund at this time.

Environment

  • Providing $25 million over three years to the ministries of Environment and Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations to implement the new Water Sustainability Act.

Economic Development

  • Budget 2015 sets the goal of expanding high-speed Internet access to all of B.C. by 2021.
  • Base budget increase of $6.3 million to the Ministry of Energy and Mines to support continued improvements to permitting and regulatory oversight, including mine inspections.

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