Provisional 2023 CRD budget increase estimated at 3.5%
By GARY HOLMAN
SSI CRD DIRECTOR
The Capital Regional District (CRD) Board will approve its provisional budget for 2023 on Sept. 21, held earlier than usual this year due to the local government election in October. It will be the responsibility of the elected CRD director to publicly present the provisional CRD budget and vote on the final CRD budget in March 2023.
The proposed requisition increase for the CRD and CRHD (Capital Region Hospital District) is 3.5 per cent on a per household basis, similar to the average yearly increase over the past four year term. The 2023 increase is somewhat higher than the average inflation rate for 2018-22, but about half the current inflation rate.
The major drivers for the 2023 requisition increase, aside from inflation and negotiated wage and salary settlements for CRD staff, are:
• costs to PARC of leasing and operating the middle school, re-purposing of the Ganges fire hall property, and requisition increases to support devolution of Saturday Market management to a local non-profit group;
• increased funding for community groups engaged in climate action, food security and beautification of Ganges;
• continued increases in library staffing as volunteer numbers decline;
• higher BC Transit bus leasing fees and COVID ridership revenue impacts;
• higher costs of liquid waste trucking and disposal.
Offsetting these cost increases somewhat is the reduced cost of the 911 dispatch service, now provided by Saanich municipality, compared to Langford which has discontinued this service.
A major factor contributing to the CRD requisition increase in the previous year was the unprecedented escalation in Salt Spring Island’s assessed values compared to the region as a whole, meaning we paid a higher proportion of the costs of region-wide services. Assessed values within the regional district are not available, nor the requisition implications, until February of 2023, and will be taken into account in the final CRD budget. The final CRD/CRHD requisition, to be approved in March 2023, may be higher due to costs related to the local community commission (subject to voter approval,) and CRD Board decisions on initiatives regarding First Nations reconciliation and other regional issues.
Most of the requisition increases for local CRD services result from the leasing of the middle school and pending acquisition of the fire hall; increases in service levels (library, economic development); and devolution of the Saturday Market management to a local community group. It should be noted that SSI has also benefitted greatly this term from millions in grants and funding commitments directly from the CRD, or flowing through CRD from senior governments, such as:
• $3.74 million from Capital Region Hospital District for the new Lady Minto Hospital emergency room.
• over $2 million in infrastructure funding for the CRD Maliview sewage treatment plant upgrade and Salt Spring’s first large-scale composting facility.
• $6.5 million through CRD Regional Housing for the Croftonbrook project.
• BC Housing’s commitment for a fully funded 28-unit supported housing facility on CRD’s Drake Road property.
• gas tax funding for affordable housing-related water supply alternatives and our new fire hall.
• continued CRD funding to support free residential recycling.
• MOTI funding of $490,000 for the Booth Canal-Central pathway.
• over $1 million from the Province to PARC for shared recreation/daycare space at the Rainbow Road swimming pool.
• $300,000 in PARC funding to acquire the Mount Maxwell community park.
It has been a privilege to serve Salt Spring this past term, and I urge everyone to get out and vote for your preferred CRD and Islands Trust candidates.
I also urge voters to support the local community commission proposal to broaden CRD elected representation, make local decision-making (including budget decisions) more transparent and reduce the siloed nature of our service delivery.