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Budget increase for tourism sparks debate among Columbia Shuswap directors

Proposed 20.61 per cent increase prompts City of Salmon Arm to review options

By Barb Brouwer


Salmon Arm will be looking at alternatives to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District’s tourism service after a heated discussion by directors occurred in recent budget deliberations.

Following directions from CSRD board directors during Draft 1 deliberations on Jan. 17, finance manager Jodi Pierce and staff made several changes that brought the overall budget to a total of $80.5 million, taking the taxpayer burden from a 10.77 percent increase in draft 1 to 6.75 percent increase over 2023.

Prior to Pierce’s detailed budget presentation at the CSRD’s Feb. 14 committee of the whole meeting, ‘what ifs’ versus ‘recommendations’ regarding the tourism budget sparked an almost hourlong debate.

In Draft 1 of the budget presented to the Committee of the Whole in January, Shuswap Tourism proposed a 20.61 per cent tax increase in its budget, equivalent to an additional $80,241.

During that discussion, Salmon Arm director Tim Lavery received unanimous support for his motion to have staff investigate the implications of reducing the tax increase for tourism to 9 per cent, or approximately $34,000 (a reduction of $46,241 from Draft 1).

The finance department then assisted tourism staff in creating a revised draft 2 budget that represented a tax increase of only 8.42 percent, and included implications of the changes.

In her report to the board, Tourism and Film manager Morgen Matheson advised directors that previous funding which allowed Tourism Shuswap to function without seeking tax increases has come to an end.

“Due to having surpluses and benefiting from grant structures in previous years, the tourism budget appeared to be artificially sufficient without requiring increased taxation,” Matheson noted in her report. “Regrettably, this situation has led to a delayed request for a tax increase, which is now necessary.”

In order to reduce the tourism budget by more than half, Matheson said transfer of $15,000 to operating reserves for the next strategic plan and $20,000 for the 2025 vacation guide production had been eliminated. As well, the revised budget cut ROOTSandBLUES sponsorship in half from, $10,000 to $5,000, with a general sponsorship budget being cut from $15,000 to $7,500.

“This could impact the Salty Dog Enduro, Wednesday on the Wharf, Salmon Arm Pride, Music in the Bay, Fungi Fest, Shake the Lake, Falkland Stampede and the Salmon Run,” Matheson noted.

Lavery made a motion to accept staff ‘recommendations’ and reduce the tourism budget, and was supported by board chair Kevin Flynn. Both municipal directors pointed out Salmon Arm council had expressed concern, particularly as the city pays 40 per cent of the tourism budget based on the number of its taxpayers.

Electoral area directors, however, were vocal in their opposition to changes they said would have adverse effects on their electoral areas.

Area C director Marty Gibbons pointed out his area is 96 per cent residential and has very little business, and relies heavily on tourism, which he said requires a regional approach.

Gibbons said grant-in-aid funds are not sufficient to support tourism in his area as 90 per cent of those monies go to helping struggling community halls with ever-escalating insurance costs, and to local fire halls for holding events.

“This is important to our area, to our economy in the region and I suggest we properly fund it moving forward,” he said, pointing to the damaging effect of the Bush Creek East Wildfire and the need to let the world know the Shuswap is open for business.

Area D director Dean Trumbley expressed his dissatisfaction with the proposed changes, calling sponsorship, marketing and event campaign budgets the driving economic force in his area. He said the Falkland Stampede is critical to funding other projects in Area D and that losing it would be devastating.

“This is the only big push we get for funding tourism,” he said, making clear the board had asked ‘what if’ implications of a reduced budget and that what Matheson produced were suggestions rather than recommendations. “If anything, now in these tough times, we should be supporting related industry as opposed to talking about reducing budgets.”

Read more: Columbia Shuswap directors ask to scale back proposed 10.77 tax increase

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Area E director Rhona Martin agreed the tourism budget should be left as previously presented, reiterating that as most rural communities have no manufacturing or big mills, many residents have turned to creating businesses to bring tourists to the region.

As well, Martin pointed out the saving to the average homeowner if the board approved the Draft 2 tourism budget would have been approximately $1.50.

Flynn again voiced his support for the reduced tourism budget.

“I think this is the process we need to follow and staff has come back with recommendations,” he said, noting the City of Salmon Arm gives ROOTSandBLUES $50,000 and supports other events. “I think what staff has done is responsible and gives us choices, and as the largest funder, I don’t believe sponsorship is a big issue.”

Following Pierce’s overall budget presentation, which drew high praise from the board, Flynn reiterated Gibbons’ suggestion that directors need to be mindful of the cost of providing services.

“We have to make decisions based on the implications on our limited resources, which are staff, taxation and finances,” he said. “We want to provide services and help to our taxpayers, but we have to be very conscious of the impacts of our decisions at this table through the year.”

Following a report by Lavery at the Feb. 26 City of Salmon Arm council meeting, Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison said a 20 per cent increase is “way too much at a time like this,”and tabled a motion to review the city’s future participation in Shuswap Tourism, and to report back to council by June 10, 2024. Council voted unanimously in support.

“If the city decides some other iteration of tourism and supporting tourism, it’s important that we connect with CSRD prior to any plans for 2025 budgeting,” said Harrison. “It would unfair for us to wait for the last minute and I’m not going to suggest what the outcome is going to be because I don’t know what it is. But I think that timeline will work and council will have the information that they need to look at different options…”

The 2024 CSRD budget will go back to the board for adoption at the March 21 board meeting. Budget details are available online at

Lachlan Labere

About the Author: Lachlan Labere

Editor of the Salmon Arm Observer, Shuswap Market, and Eagle Valley News. I'm always looking for new and exciting ways to keep our readers informed and engaged.
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