Amalgamation committee looks at fourth council idea

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The Regional Working has added a fourth option to their council composition proposal that would see 12 councillors with the mayor/reeve elected at-large by voters.
In May the committee discussed three composition models, including 11 elected representatives, four from the city, one from Bassano and five from the county and the mayor or reeve elected by voters.
The second option would see the same composition as the first except the mayor/reeve would be elected annually by their peers.
The third option is to elect 10 councillors, four from Brooks, five from the county and one from Bassano with the mayor/reeve elected at the annual organizational meeting.
The new proposed model would see county representation from five wards instead of the current 10 divisions.
“The Working Group requested the county provide a preferred new ward structure with estimated populations,” states a regionalization press release.
“Each municipality agreed to report back on their preferred choice of council composition along with any options that they will not support to help facilitate a model that will be acceptable to all.”
Also discussed at the June meeting was the taxation policy with the unanimous support that recognizes reduced rates for rural residents where services are not as accessible or comparable to an urban setting.
Each municipality will focus on what is a reasonable separation between Urban Residential and Rural Residential/Farm rates and provide recommendations for the next meeting.
The group agreed once taxation rates are set, they will need to be locked in for several years subject to standard inflationary increases, to provide taxpayers with the full benefits of the proposed model.
The group also agreed that the taxation policy would set base mill rates.
Any specific area within the larger municipality would be able to have access to additional local capital and operational funding on a user-pay philosophy through a special tax or local improvement levies.
Service levels were briefly discussed with more to follow in future meetings, however, it was unanimous that all service levels will either be kept as they are today or enhanced under the larger municipality.
The group agreed, if the decision is to proceed with full amalgamation, that a day or two will be set aside to meet with key business stakeholders, non-profits, associations and other interested parties who need special consideration on dealing with potential impacts under a new model.
Research and discussion on matters of electoral representation, taxation policy, financial transition, employees and labour agreements, bylaws and resolutions, and legislative exemptions will take place over the next four months, followed by public consultation and formal recommendations and decisions early next year.
The working group will begin to meet twice a month beginning in July and enhanced communication options will be reviewed at the next meeting.
The committee had released an RFP for a communications strategy and implementation plan which expired on June 10, however, as of June 7 there had been no submissions.
Amalgamation is being considered by Brooks, Newell and Bassano.
Additional information can be found at regionalwg.ca.