The Comox Valley Regional District is proposing to reduce its financial commitment to the Economic Development Service (EDS) from $1.2 million to $800,000.
Core services of the function include the Visitor Centre (about $300,000), destination marketing ($100,000) and economic development services ($400,000). The latter largely concerns wages and benefits of staff members of the Comox Valley Economic Development Society (CVEDS).
The EDS is mostly funded through taxes. For a property assessed at $500,000, the 2021 tax impact is proposed to be $26.05 per household.
At the Feb. 9 board meeting, Comox director Ken Grant expressed frustration with the board interjecting decisions into an organization with an independent governance model. He said decreasing the EDS budget equates to less service for the same amount of money.
“This is why I didn’t want to get involved in messing with this service,” Grant said. “I thought it was running pretty efficiently at the time. Through all of that, we’ve done nothing but make a mess of this, in my opinion.”
He said Comox started a service review because it could foresee “more cost for less service.”
Grant notes that board members have expressed a lack confidence and trust in those who carry out the EDS.
“With all the angst around this, I don’t see any way this relationship with economic development can continue,” Grant said. “I think it’s time that we cut our ties with this organization. Stop throwing good money after bad. We can’t even reduce a budget properly here.”
Grant suggested terminating the contract with CVEDS.
Area B director Arzeena Hamir is happy to see an economic development work plan that includes the organization of a childcare forum and development of a food hub, among other strategic priorities.
“CVEDS is doing what we asked them to do,” she said. “This looks fantastic.”
Area A director Daniel Arbour also sees improvements in the proposed budget.
“It reflects the reality of our commitment to the contract,” he said. “I’m in favour of passing this budget. I think the staff did a great job in a very tough situation.”
CAO Russell Dyson said the budget at this stage is a draft, but Grant motioned to go in camera to discuss the contract.
“There’s a bunch of stuff in here that doesn’t make sense,” he said.
His motion was defeated.
Grant was the lone board member to oppose receipt of the item and the recommendation to approve the 2021-2015 financial plan for the EDS.