Gulf Islands Driftwood
Voice of the Southern Gulf Islands

Economic Development Commission seeks bigger budget

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The Salt Spring Economic Development Commission is making a recommendation to increase its tax requisition from $30,000 to $35,000 next year, while recognizing the amount is still insufficient for the work it would like to undertake.

Commissioners meeting Friday, Oct. 27 voted in favour of the 2018 budget recommendation, which will be one part of the Capital Regional District’s total requisition for Salt Spring. The proposed increase of 16.7 per cent may sound significant, and is much more than the two per cent limit preferred by the island’s electoral area director Wayne McIntyre. However, commission chair Darryl Martin hesitated over whether to make the budget recommendation since it is so at odds with what the members feel is needed.

“I feel some discomfort with voting in favour of something that I think is a number that is not right for the island,” Martin said. “On the other hand I recognize we have to keep things moving along in the larger organization. So I would like to maybe pass the budget with a comment that we believe that a community of this size needs a larger requisition for economic development.”

Salt Spring’s senior CRD manager Karla Campbell agreed the commission is within its rights to look ahead, although she recommended they pass the budget motion for the time being since the CRD needs to adopt a provisional budget in November.

“Yes, $35,000 does not go very far, especially when you’re relying on volunteer efforts of your commissioners to complete projects; especially when they have their other lives with things they are doing,” Campbell said. “If you want to grow and make this a workable model for your initiatives, you do need a staff person to coordinate your work, to lead different initiatives, to gather data needed for further projects you want to do, and it’s not going to be done with the little remainder that you do have.”

Campbell pointed out the average homeowner currently pays $5.26 per year for the commission’s services. She said perhaps a different tax structure should be considered to fund a future increase since business owners benefit most directly from the commission’s work, although that might be beyond the scope of regional government to decide. Other funding sources such as business licences have also been raised as something the commission might consider in the future.

During the past year the CEDC has supported economic capacity building on Salt Spring through several programs. The Rural Business Accelerator program, funded through a provincial grant, provides mentorship and training for entrepreneurs from several specific sectors and will continue into 2018. The commission launched a new website this year to attract new business owners to the island and help existing ones, and intends to build new content and grow its special media campaigns.

For more on this story, see the Nov. 1, 2017 issue of the Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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