Councillors and administrators with the RM of McKillop will have a government appointed supervisor looking over their shoulders for the next 12 months.
This move comes after an outcry from the RM of McKillop this summer. Ratepayers were frustrated about what many called mismanagement of issues ranging from boundaries to councillors to finances, and finally, a huge tax hike that added thousands to some people’s bills.
The province heard from residents and called for an inspection of the RM’s operations. The review is finished, and now the supervisor has been appointed to help get things back on track.
The inspection looked at the seven petitions before the council including several legal actions involving the council and the RM’s finances.
The report made clear the inspectors didn’t find any factual evidence of fraud, theft or misappropriation of funds.
Under the financial portion, the report said the RM didn’t seem to be in financial difficulty, though that’s the reason the RM gave to media for the large tax hike approved in August.
“It appears the RM has rarely needed to access its $100,000 line of credit for operating the municipality. The long-term debt of the RM is below its authorized debt limit,” read the report.
The report also states the reviewers couldn’t find any documents to explain the decision to raise municipal taxes.
There may not be any relief for residents frustrated over the tax hike. There was no recommendation on the increase approved in August. Kaeding said that bylaw has been passed, and it would then be up to the council to decide if they want to revisit it.
The inspectors did find the RM had cashed in term deposits means for the lagoon special levy reserve six months before they were set to mature and used the money for general operations. Though ratepayers complained about this, the report noted there is no legislation against the practice. No authorization from council was found for the change.
It also found a letter from the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program asking for $61,174.56 back. The RM has since been given an extension to March of next year to give an accounting of outstanding projects and explanation as to why they haven’t been completed.
Much of the money the RM was spending and projecting to spend was on legal fees.
One action was taken regarding trying to get a councillor to be disqualified on the basis of a conflict of interest. Another was regarding a retaining wall in a development. Action is being taken against the RM by a former employee alleging they were inappropriately fired. The RM is also dealing with Code of Ethics complaints against council, and a notice from the CRA of an audit of an employee’s T4s.
The report on the RM ends with five recommendations. Among those is the appointment of a supervisor to help the RM straighten out its operations over the next year.
Supervisor to provide guidance on municipal governance
Vern Palmer is the appointed supervisor for the next year. He’s retired now, but Minister of Government Relations, Warren Kaeding, said Palmer has a wealth of experience in municipal governance.
Kaeding said Palmer can provide guidance and direction to the reeve, council and administrators on how to approach each issue and to offer some options.
“Just give them some oversight really as to how they’re going to deal with each of these situations as they come up,” explained Kaeding.
Kaeding said taking this kind of action is out of the ordinary in the province, with this being the fifth time in 20 years.
It’s also being recommended the RM undergo a financial audit and a management audit.
The report said the RM should also go through with referendums on proposed boundary alterations and on letting resort communities have their own governments.
It recommends the RM work with the SunDale development on a new utility rate bylaw. The RM recently took over the water and sewage works.
Overall, after the year is up, the report said if there aren’t significant changes in the RM, then the government may have to take further action which could include issuing directives to council and dismissing officials.