By ROY WOOD
If all goes according to plan, regular weekday Osoyoos-to-Kelowna bus service will replace the current Monday-only schedule by September 2019.
But the one thing that sticks in the craw of some council members is that Osoyoos will pay nearly twice as much for the service expansion as Oliver, a town of similar size just 19 kilometres to the north.
The transit expansion is being developed between the regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS) and BC Transit.
At a town council meeting early this week, Councillor CJ Rhodes questioned the method of coming up with the cost distribution. “Can we protest the formula?” he asked in voting in favour of the plan.
The total annual cost of the expansion for the RDOS) is estimated at about $157,000. It would be collected from Penticton, Summerland, Keremeos, Oliver, Osoyoos, Princeton and electoral areas A, B, C and D. Penticton would pay the largest share, with Summerland paying the second most.
In the middle of the pack are Osoyoos at $13,080 and Oliver at $7,419. The reason for the disparity comes down to the relatively larger size of Osoyoos’s economy, as reflected by the total assessed value of property and improvements in the two towns.
In an interview Friday, RDOS accountant John Cote told ODN that the formula the district uses to assess member municipalities for various programs and services is based on assessments.
He described a process in which the total value of land and improvements in all nine property classes – residential, industrial, farming, etc. – are plugged into a formula and a value per jurisdiction comes out the end.
The total “converted assessed value” for Osoyoos comes out to $1.56 billion, while the total for Oliver is $$861 million.
As a result, Osoyoos will pay 8.35 per cent of the cost of the transit expansion and Oliver’s share will be just 4.73 per cent.
Councillor Mike Campol suggested a population-based cost sharing would be more appropriate.
He added that there may be a further inequity in the funding that sees wealthier jurisdictions pay more. “Wouldn’t poorer areas use the buses more?” he asked rhetorically.
Rhodes, who was at an RDOS meeting where the transit plan was discussed, pointed out that the expansion represents a large investment for BC Transit. He warned that if Osoyoos residents don’t make use of the service it will turn out to be “a waste of money.”