District of Sooke Councillor Rick Kasper

Double-billing ‘error’ discovered in budget

Previous accounting system was problematic; corrections and changes made

Sooke taxpayers have been paying twice for storm water testing and animal control: once to the District of Sooke, and again to the Capital Regional District (CRD), for at least five years.

This double billing came up at the March 3 meeting of the Finance & Administration as a result of a committee member questioning some line items in Sooke’s five-year budget.

“The Sooke taxpayers have been double billed for the animal control and the testing of our basin,” said Councillor Rick Kasper. At the March 3 meeting, “we found out that these services were included in the requisition from the CRD because they are the ones that provide the services to us, but it was also included as a line item in the municipal portion of our budget.”

The District of Sooke’s Financial Plan 2010 to 2014, General Operating Fund, shows the 2013 amount to be $106,035 ($64,879 for animal control and $41,156 for storm water quality control). These funds have been a line item in the General Operating Fund since at least 2011, growing incrementally from $95,016 in 2009 to the current 2013 amount.

“The money that had been collected (to cover these expenditures over the years) is actually sitting in our bank account” in their operating reserve fund, explained Kasper.

“The Finance Committee is recommending that we actually reduce the tax requisition for this year to reflect that over billing,” said Kasper, who added council requested a report from Michael Dillabaugh, Sooke’s Director of Finance, for the total amount collected over the years.

“Michael (Dillabaugh) who has great credentials and his assistant Brent (Blackhall) … they don’t leave a stone unturned,” remarked Kasper, adding that council has been making changes in “the accounting systems that have been in place ever since we got elected.”

“It just shows how much of a disaster the record keeping (has been),” said Kasper, “and the how system that we had in place was totally inappropriate.”

The responsibility for the record keeping rests ultimately with the Director of Finance. The Finance Committee has requested a report from the director to see how far back this double billing goes.

The previous accounting system was “so problematic it was unreal. We got very frustrated.”

These frustrations have lead to changes, elaborated Kasper, and deferred the matter to Michael Dillabaugh. Dillabough was hired as Director of Finance in 2012.

Dillabough responded by stating the duplication had been “caught and fixed from day one of the budget process this year.” Recommendations on what to do with the surplus will be presented at the next council meeting on March 24 (7 p.m.),  where council will address it.

“It just shows that the committee process works, especially when you have a member of the public,” noted Kasper, looking on the bright side of things. “And that’s what committees are there to do. They are there to ask questions to assist in making sure the taxpayers interests are represented. That’s what democracy is all about.”

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