Town without people posts budget surpluses

Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality has a population lower than that of Gilligan’s Island but it gets hundreds of thousands in tax dollars

A seven-year-old town once described by a now-NDP cabinet minister as having fewer people than Gilligan’s Island has an accumulated surplus of almost half a million dollars as of Dec. 31.

And, despite government funding having fallen significantly since the NDP took power, Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality (JGMRM) continues to propose receiving $2.25 million from Victoria between 2019 and 2023, council documents show.

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And, that’s for a town current Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Michelle Mungall once described as having “no electricity, no buildings, no garbage pickup, no phones, no chairs.”

It may not get all that cash, though, if recent numbers are any indication. Indeed, some revenue has been deferred, municipal officials said.

The proposed East Kootenay ski resort site is back in the news after B.C.’s top court ruled Aug. 6 that a Liberal minister of environment was correct in pulling the massive project’s environmental approval in 2015 because it was not substantially started. That started several rounds of legal wrangling as far as the Supreme Court of Canada.

The citizen-challenged municipality is 55 kilometres west of Invermere in a stunning alpine paradise in the East Kootenay’s Purcell Mountain range, the proposed site of a massive ski resort.

It’s a town created by bureaucrats, run by bureaucrats and with no occupants.

Jumbo was created in 2012 with funding coming then from the Liberals’ Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

Then Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald of the NDP said in 2014 Jumbo “should be one of the biggest embarrassments” for the Liberal government.

Between 2013 and 2018, the municipality received $782,824, annual reports show. In 2013, it received the $200,000 budgeted for.

It budgeted the same for 2014 but received $301,189, financial statements for the year ending Dec. 31, 2014 said.

Then, in 2015, the municipality budgeted $250,000 and received $121,510. For 2016 and 2017, it again budgeted $250,000, receiving only $52,500. That number increased to $55,125 in 2018.

By the end of 2018, JGMRM had accumulated an operating surplus of $475,804, the year-end financial statement said.

The council of Mayor Greg Deck and Coun. Nancy Hugunin runs the municipality. Their meetings have become fewer between in the past few years but generally take place in the Village of Radium as Jumbo has no buildings in which to meet.

Steve Ostrander of Invermere had been appointed to council but no longer appears on documents. Mail for the council also goes to Radium.

Council was appointed in 2012 by the former Liberal government, which created the municipality at the request of the Regional District of East Kootenay to facilitate development of the Jumbo Glacier Resort, a year-round ski resort.

A Greg Deck is listed by Elections BC as having contributed $8,745 to the BC Liberals between 2005 and 2017.

Deck’s LinkedIn page lists him as mayor – “part of a three person appointed council whose task is to prepare the administrative framework for the Jumbo Glacier Resort in the Purcell Mountains of B.C.”

The page said administrative services are contracted to Radium, an agreement starting in 2013.

The 2019-2023 financial plan forecast for the years 2019-2023 that the municipality would receive $255,125 in government transfers for each of those year.

Expenses for 2019 are budgeted at $101,525 for general services and $27,465 for development services. Those numbers slowly creep up annually to 2023.

Despite those expenses, the Village of Radium’s 2019 annual report characterized its work for Jumbo as “minimal.”
Activity was slow the two previous years when expenses were budgeted at $136,965 – including $24,765 in development services. The actual expense was $36,518, down from $41,753 in 2017.

“Administrative activity on the Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality front was quiet during the year as development activity had largely ceased pending the Supreme Court of Canada decision,” Radium’s 2018 annual report said.

With income from other levels of government (as well as some very minor taxation revenue), the town is successfully operating with surplus budgets  – starting with a forecast of $134,335 this year and declining to $124,337 to 2023 as expenses increase.

“It is the objective of council to operate an efficient municipality,” the financial plan said.

Jumbo’s acting chief financial officer Karen Sharp said actual funds receives from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs are “based on the municipality being active.”

“The budget is planned in this manner because if the court case settles and development could occur then the municipality would be ready to move forward,” she said.

The provincial ministry provides funding under the Small Community Grant, a legislated grant all small communities receive, Sharp explained.
“There is a formula that determines the amount,” she said. “The full $200,000 was received in 2013 and 2014.  Council chose to receive partial funds ($70,720) in 2015 and since then have deferred the payments each year.”

In a statement to Glacier Media, the ministry said:

“Jumbo hasn’t received any provincial funding since 2015 and operates on surplus funds from past Small Community Grants.

“Since 2015, any eligible funding payments were voluntarily deferred at the request of Jumbo’s municipal council,” the statement said.

 The ministry said Jumbo received an initial start-up grant of $200,000 in 2013 to establish a basic administrative structure and processes.

And, the ministry confirmed  Jumbo is eligible for approximately $200,000 annually in Small Community Grant funding for infrastructure, administration, and service delivery priorities.

“In March 2015, Jumbo received a $70,720 Small Community Grant and was scheduled to receive further grants, but requested deferment when the (environmental assessment) certificate expired in 2015.  Jumbo has elected to defer all subsequent Small Community Grant payments since 2015.”

The ministry said while the grant continues to be deferred annually, the municipality must comply with the financial reporting requirements under the Community Charter.

“That includes audited financial statements and a five-year financial plan,”the statement said.

 

The municipality received $160,125 from the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) between 2016 and 2018 financial statements said.

The UBCM receives the bulk of its funding through the federal Gas Tax Fund, its annual report indicates.

The UBCM administers the fund in BC. UBCM spokesman Paul Taylor said.

“One of the requirements of this federal program is that a base amount of funding be provided to every local government in BC on an annual basis,” he said. “Jumbo Glacier Mountain Resort Municipality is an incorporated municipality, and as such, Federal Gas Tax funding is provided to it in accordance with the administrative agreement for the program.”

The municipality also has an official community plan and three staff members. The chief administrative office, the chief financial officer and deputy corporate officer also perform the same functions for the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

The 2016 census does not list Jumbo as having a population.

The municipality has 25 bylaws, most dealing with finance and taxation.

The council initial remuneration bylaw allowed $6,875 a year for the mayor and $4,583 for the councillor.  That, however, changed when the mayor and councillor met March 19, 2013 read a new bylaw three times and then reconsidered it again and approved raises to $7,500 for the mayor and $5,000 for councillors.

Despite the raises, mayor or councillors sometimes don’t even get to council meetings, attending by teleconference, according to minutes. And, they’ve only met once so far in 2019.

Some meetings can last as long as three minutes.

The creation of the municipality was defended in the Legislature in 2013 by now-retired area MLA Bill Bennett. He said the province has a history of creating municipalities in order to facilitate economic growth

“There was actually a mayor appointed for Tumbler Ridge long before there were residents there. There are at least a dozen communities in our history that have been created around either mines or hydroelectric developments, all for the same reason: to create jobs, to add to the province's economic viability and to help the regions in which these projects take place.”

Retorted Mungall “There are more people living on Gilligan's Island than there are in Jumbo.”

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

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