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Kamloops tallies millions in downloaded costs from provincial, federal governments

FILE PHOTO - Kamloops city councillor Katie Neustaeter is seen in this photo from Facebook. Coun. Neustaeter asked City staff to tally the costs associated with perceived downloading by higher levels of government.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Katie Neustaeter

Millions of dollars in property taxes have been spent on social issues in Kamloops due to downloading from higher levels of government.

That according to a City of Kamloops report that tallied municipal spending for the past four years on issues that might otherwise be the responsibility of the province or the federal government.

From 2019 to 2023, the City has spent nearly $3.5 million on social issues, which includes things like homeless camp cleanups, security at local parks and medical supplies for overdoses.

The City claims the increased costs are due to a higher reliance on firefighters for medical calls as paramedic responses falter, along with a greater reliance on bylaw officers for so-called social issues.

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City staff tallied the costs at council's request, which was initially proposed by Coun. Katie Neustaeter who criticized higher levels of government for dropping responsibilities in the laps of municipalities. She aimed her criticism at the province in particular.

"Although municipalities keep speaking about it, sometimes it means more to see it in dollars and cents," Neustaeter said. "We know we're absorbing a lot of the costs and responsibilities that are provincial in nature."

For emergency responses or calls for social issues, drawing a distinction between the beginning of one government's responsibility and the end of another's is "muddy at best," according to the report. Staff noted that it's common for multiple first responders to go to the same call.

But the report goes beyond the $3.5 million in responding to social issues and homelessness. It also tallies another $3.8 million in costs from "gaps in service delivery."

That's a figure based on the City's cost to lease land for multiple subsidized and supportive housing sites, along with lost revenue for providing property for shelter spaces.

Examples include the $1.4 million cost of buying the property for ASK Wellness' Spero House and the $250,000 in lost revenue while the Memorial Arena and Kamloops Curling Club were used as shelters during the COVID pandemic.

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Those facilities were either funded or subsidized by the province and contracted to non-profits but the City didn't get reimbursed for its costs, according to the report.

Although Neustaeter's proposal appeared to be aimed at downloaded costs for social issues like homelessness, healthcare and crime, City staff went further and included other changes with provincial policy.

Staff tallied around $5.8 million from 2019 to 2023 in additional costs it also blames on downloading from the provincial government like $200,000 for the BC Carbon Tax and a $2 million bill to add more RCMP officers.

The report will go to council on Tuesday, May 28. It's not clear whether council will make any decisions based on its contents, but Neustaeter's motion in January proposed the City try to get reimbursed.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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