Fraser Valley – The Agricultural Land Commission (ALC) is receiving a budget increase of 33% ($1.1 million) through Balanced Budget 2016 to fulfil its mandate of protecting farm land and to deliver their services to British Columbians in a timely, efficient and accessible manner.
The Victoria media release goes on to say – the improved service delivery includes increased support for compliance and enforcement activities and a refund to applicants if their application is not processed within a defined time. The enhanced service model is outlined in performance indicators the ALC will implement as part of the Province’s cross-government commitment to strengthening public sector governance and accountability. The performance indicators include:
- Keeping applicants informed by:
- Acknowledging receipt of a complete application, or identifying the required additional information, within five business days;
- Making decisions within 60 business days of receiving complete applications; and
- Notifying applicants of the decision within five business days of the decision being made.
- Improving compliance and enforcement by developing and implementing a comprehensive approach, and through additional hiring, by Nov. 30, 2016.
- Increasing local government engagement by conducting annual surveys of local governments to identify challenges and opportunities.
The measures to improve service to British Columbians include a money-back guarantee, providing applicants with a full refund if they do not receive a decision on their complete application within 90 business days.
These efforts follow the ALC’s launch of an online application and tracking system, the successful recruitment of a CEO, and the creation of regional panels that reflect the geographic differences of the province. These measures help farming families earn a better living and have more opportunities to use their land.
The increase boosts the ALC annual budget to $4.5 million, a $2.5-million increase in the commission’s base budget since 2012. The budget increase is partially offset by revised fees, which were last set in 2002. The fees for companies or individuals making an application to the ALC will increase from $600 to $1,500 in Zone 1 and $900 in Zone 2. The revised fees will recover about 40% of the expenses incurred in the application process and include several new fees directly related to compliance and enforcement.
The commission is also expected to fully adopt the cross-government Taxpayer Accountability Principles posted at: http://gov.bc.ca/crownaccountabilities
The new accountability measures, the money-back guarantee and the new fees all will come into effect on April 1, 2016.
However, as the budget increases, that means more money out of the pockets of farmers as the Agricultural Land Commission imposes steep increase in application fees, with a “money back guarantee” if applications aren’t processed within 90 business days.
For zone one, the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island and the Okanagan, the application fee goes from $600 to $1,500. In zone two, the remainder of the province, the fee goes from $600 to $900. Letnick said the majority of farm income is generated in zone one, so farmers can afford to pay more.
The increase still doesn’t cover the estimated $3,000 cost of processing an application, most of which are for non-farm use or an exclusion or subdivision of agricultural land. Letnick said the province is adding an additional $1.1 million to the ALC budget to make up the difference.