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What is a Regional District

Rural areas are home to approximately 12 percent of BC’s population. Regional districts are British Columbia’s way of ensuring that all residents have access to commonly needed services, no matter where they live.

Beginning in 1965, BC’s regional form of government is one of the most innovative in Canada. Regional districts provide rural residents with an effective form of local government, while also representing municipal residents on regional issues. The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) is one of 28 regional districts in the Province of British Columbia.

The RDNO has three purposes:

  1. It is the local government for the electoral areas of the North Okanagan, and is responsible for providing basic local services such as community planning.
  2. It is a regional service body responsible for providing important regional services to all jurisdictions within the North Okanagan, such as solid waste management planning.
  3. It is an inter-jurisdictional service body that provides local government services on a sub-regional basis across jurisdictional boundaries to different combinations of municipalities and electoral areas, such as Greater Vernon Water.

What Services Does a Regional District Provide?
Regional districts can provide a broad range of services, with the notable exception of roads and policing. The choice of services is determined by the Regional Board but only with the support of the electors. The scope of services therefore varies with each regional district, and according to local circumstances and local opinion.

Unlike municipalities, regional districts are required to match the benefits and costs of its services to the people who benefit from the services. Costs are recovered by billing those who benefit from the services - in other words, residents pay for what they get. Refer to Funding for more information.

Some services, such as street lighting, may be provided to only part of an electoral area in the form of a local service, or to a combination of electoral areas and municipalities as a sub-regional service, for example Greater Vernon Water.   Services that are provided region-wide to all member municipalities and electoral areas, such as solid waste management planning, are called regional services. 

How Does a New Service Get Established?
Generally, the idea for a new service emerges from Regional Board directors, citizens, municipal councils, local government staff, or senior levels of government.

A Board member may initiate a new service request by proposing a resolution to the Board.  If the Board approves the resolution in principle, the service establishment process begins. A feasibility study may be conducted, or direction may be given to staff to prepare a report and bylaws for the proposed new service.

If appropriate, all 11 partners may be surveyed as to whether or not they wish to participate in the proposed service.

If the proposed service is deemed to be feasible, a service establishment bylaw is developed. The bylaw must be given three readings by the Board, and may also be required to receive the assent of the electors.

The bylaw must further receive approval from the province’s Inspector of Municipalities, as well as the member municipalities and electoral areas that intend to participate in the proposed service.  After receiving the necessary approvals, the service establishment bylaw may be adopted to create the new service.

Governance
Regional districts are governed by a board consisting of two types of directors:

  • Electoral Area Directors are elected directly by rural area voters, and serve three-year terms.
  • Municipal Directors are first elected to a municipal council, and are then appointed by their council to the Regional District board for a one-year term.

The board selects its own chairperson, who generally sets up committees to deal with issues such as planning, environmental management, and regional growth.

The Board of the Regional District of North Okanagan consists of 13 directors – one from each of the electoral areas and one from each of the municipalities, with the exception of the City of Vernon, which appoints three directors.

Funding
Each year, BC’s regional districts provide over $541 million in services. Regional districts account for about 14 cents of each dollar spent by local government in British Columbia. Environmental services, water and recreational services are the largest expenditures.

Regional districts raise funds primarily through property taxation.  In rural areas, the Province collects property taxes. Within municipal boundaries, property taxes are paid to the municipality. The Province and municipalities then transfer funds to the regional districts to cover the costs of local, sub-regional and regional services that the regional districts are sanctioned by the voters to provide.

Regional districts also generate revenues from fees and charges, such as dog licenses, and provincial or federal government grants.

Regional Hospital District
A separate body that shares the same geographic boundaries as the RDNO is the Regional Hospital District of the North Okanagan. Regional hospital districts provide the local share for financing hospital construction, ensuring that all area residents who utilize hospital services make an equitable contribution to the capital costs. Regional hospital districts do not fund or direct the operations of hospitals; they are only involved in hospital construction.