CRD budget increase finalized

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BY GARY HOLMAN, SALT SPRING CRD ELECTORAL AREA DIRECTOR

CRD’s 2021 budget will be finalized on March 24. The proposed Salt Spring Island requisition (including Capital Region Hospital District or CRHD) will be $6.854 million, a 1.2 per cent increase over 2020.

This is slightly higher than a proposed increase of one per cent in the interim or provisional budget, partly because Salt Spring’s increase in assessed values was roughly double that for CRD as a whole, increasing our share of regional service costs. Another factor is the increase in the CREST levy for system-wide emergency communications upgrades. These increases were largely offset by very welcome provincial and BC Transit COVID relief funding. The overall CRD requisition has increased by 6.4 per cent from 2018-2021, an average annual increase of 2.1 per cent.

My main focus for the 2021 CRD budget is to limit tax increases in recognition of COVID’s economic impacts, but some service improvements are still possible, including continued increases for PARC bylaw enforcement; extending public transit to the Beddis area (delayed in 2020 by COVID); and more support for our local emergency program, watershed protection and grants in aid. A number of capital projects with CRD funding are still planned, including affordable housing; pathways; shared recreation/daycare facilities; water/waste treatment investments, and Lady Minto’s new emergency room.

The total 2021 SSI CRD/CRHD requisition is $85 per month, for the “average assessed” property (versus $81/mo in 2019), supporting a range of CRD services, such as library, public transit / pathways, swimming pool, recreation programs, emergency planning, economic development and the arts.

Climate action
The Transition Salt Spring Society just released its extensive update of the island’s Climate Action Plan (CAP 2.0). My thanks to the dozens of islanders who donated their expertise in developing the plan and consulting with the public. Thanks also to Transition Salt Spring, which will be the “keeper of the plan” — advocating for action, helping coordinate agencies and providing information regarding incentives offered by senior governments to help catalyze change.

CAP 2.0 makes key recommendations to help Salt Spring adapt and respond to climate impacts already occurring as a result of longer, hotter drought periods and more extreme winter storms. The Islands Trust can play a key role by protecting our rare Coastal Douglas-fir forests, drinking watersheds and groundwater recharge areas, and keeping settlement patterns compact.

CRD can also play an important role, and is acting locally in a number of ways by continuing investments in pedestrian and cycling infrastructure and public transit; upgrading sewage treatment in Ganges; and supporting gas tax funding of EV chargers, and water and/or energy conservation measures for affordable housing and facilities like ArtSpring, Core Inn and The Root. CRD is also working with other organizations to establish composting and chipping alternatives to open burning, and on new facilities such as the hospital emergency room, a public safety building and emergency communications, in order to improve our community resiliency.

Regionally, the CRD continues to protect carbon-sequestering green space with its Parkland Acquisition Fund and will be increasing methane capture at the Hartland landfill.

Other news
New agreements will hopefully allow Island Pathways and the Salt Spring bus shelter group to collaborate more effectively with our CRD Transportation Commission on pedestrian and transit infrastructure. CRD has also signed a new lease with ArtSpring that provides security of tenure for at least 20 years.

The rollout of vaccines at our Public Health Unit Office and also at Community Services’ food bank (for the unhoused) hopefully means a return to more normal times later in the summer. Please be patient and wait your turn for your group or age cohort before calling toll free: 1-833-348-4787.

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