Editorial: Water tax thirst

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When it comes to funding for the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance, it appears the body’s cup runneth over. 

SSIWPA is an Islands Trust-led multi-agency group that coordinates activities to help protect and improve the island’s water resources. It has found itself with surplus funds accumulated over the past few years and especially from this past year.

SSIWPA already has the amount of money it proposes to spend in 2020-21: Some $79,000 sits in reserves and a $75,000 budget has been put forward. The Salt Spring Local Trust Committee could, though, recommend to Islands Trust Council that up to $98,500 — the amount Salt Spring property owners paid the past few years — be requisitioned this year as well.  

Last week Salt Spring trustees Laura Patrick and Peter Grove found themselves arguing for different options when it comes to  providing Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance funding for the next year. Grove said he feels no further funds are needed. Patrick, who chairs SSIWPA, isn’t so sure. She said she wants a definite ruling on what the tax funds could be spent on. 

When SSIWPA’s originating bylaw was created in 2013, the message from the Islands Trust couldn’t have been clearer: SSIWPA funds can only be used for “coordination” of policies and strategies that help protect island watersheds, not spent on activities themselves. It has been argued by some people over the years that actual project work is what really needs funding.

SSIWPA’s purpose has been questioned more than once since its inception, but it has proven useful in bringing together water-related expertise, and by spearheading research and studies that might not otherwise have been done.

But until the Islands Trust, LTC and SSIWPA have a definite idea about how further SSIWPA funds might be spent, they should not expect another full year’s worth of funds from island taxpayers. To keep a pot of reserve funds growing just because doing so is allowed is not responsible behaviour by any government body. 

Right now the Islands Trust website has a user-friendly public survey about its proposed budget. It’s an ideal place to express opinions about Trust expenditures and priorities, including the SSIWPA situation. 

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