Funding allocation has Abbotsford contribute $335,000 to smaller FVRD members

Abbotsford Coun. John Smith said the city is missing out on $334,939 in federal funding because of a Fraser Valley Regional District board decision.

He made the remarks during Monday night's council meeting.

Abbotsford Coun. John Smith said the city is missing out on $334,939 in federal funding because of a Fraser Valley Regional District board decision.

He made the remarks during Monday night’s council meeting.

The loss is the result of a vote taken during the district’s board of directors meeting on June 28.

At issue was the allocation of funds from the Federal Gas Tax program.

Every five years, the federal government gives a portion of the gas tax collected to the provinces, who subsequently give the funds to the various regional districts to distribute to municipalities on a per capita basis. The funding, used as part of the Regionally Significant Program, has to be used toward projects that “lead toward reduced greenhouse gas emissions, cleaner air or cleaner water.”

This year, the FVRD received $13,815,552.

Abbotsford, because it has approximately 48 per cent of the population in the FVRD, was due to receive $6,698,775.

However, the FVRD decided that  the three largest members (Abbotsford, Chilliwack and Mission) would donate five per cent of its funding to be divided among the smaller members (Hope, Kent, Harrison Hot Springs and the seven electoral areas A to G).

Because of the five per cent allocation, Chilliwack will have to contribute approximately $288,000 while Mission gives up $192,000.

Smith said the seven electoral areas – which have seven votes on the board – have a combined population of 17,693, according to the information used to establish funding amounts.

Abbotsford, which has a population of 135,866, only has five votes, one for each board member.

Abbotsford Mayor George Peary and Couns. Simon Gibson and Moe Gill, all voted with Smith against the allocation. Coun. Patricia Ross, who is also chair of the FVRD, voted in favour.

Smith wanted the vote to be weighted, meaning Abbotsford board members have the equivalent of five votes each because of its larger size.

Ross said the district sought legal opinions and the vote did not need to be weighted. She said the funding system gives the largest communities the most money and leaves nothing for the smaller areas.

“This was a way to share the pot with our neighbours,” said Ross.

It’s not the first time the three larger areas have shared its good fortune.

In 2006, the last time the funding was available, the FVRD voted to allocate 10 per cent.

“A lot has changed and maybe we don’t feel quite as generous,” said Smith.

Abbotsford is currently planning for a new water supply from Stave Lake which is estimated to cost close to $284 million. The funding is eligible to go towards that project.

“I know it’s only $335,000, but on the other hand, it’s $335,000.”

“It’s not that we are taking money from them, we just deserve to have our share. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that,” said Smith.

In January of this year, Abbotsford council decided to investigate the option of leaving the FVRD in favour of becoming a single tier governance. A staff report suggested that by becoming the sole governing body of its services, the city could save up to $1.5 million a year.

The process could take more than two years and staff are continuing to examine the idea.