Trustee Report: Public input welcomed on Trust Council matters

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By LAURA PATRICK

Last week, I provided an update on the Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee’s work. Now I am providing you with an update on the Islands Trust Council’s work and how you can have a say.

Trust Council is a federation made up of all 26 trustees elected across all the islands in the Trust Area. Your input is important as it helps me to ensure that Salt Spring’s voice is being heard at this larger table.

2022/23 Budget

In December, Trust Council endorsed a draft 2022/23 budget for public consultation. On Jan. 21, a public survey will be released to provide information on the draft budget and gather your feedback. 

The 2022/23 draft budget includes $588,500 in new grant revenues, as well as the expenses that these grants will pay for. Net of expenses paid for by grants, the budget increase over the previous year stands at approximately two per cent. So why is the proposed general tax increase at 4.88 per cent (down from 5.16 per cent stated in a Dec. 16 Trust news release), if this net spending is only up by two per cent? This is because previous budgets relied on larger draws from surplus and reserve funds to offset taxes, which is not uncommon for governments.

The draft 2022/23 budget is drawing a lesser amount from surplus and reserves than previous years, with the difference being funded by an increase in taxes. The draft budget includes funding for all operations and for projects, including $108,000 for Salt Spring Island planning projects (Ganges Village, Housing Action, and Ecosystem Protection), and a special tax requisition of $75,500 for the Salt Spring Island Watershed Protection Alliance.

Islands Trust Policy Statement

The current Trust Policy Statement was prepared two decades ago. It is being updated because it doesn’t speak to our responsibilities around reconciliation, climate change or affordable housing. I’m certain you have heard a thing or two about the first draft, because I have certainly heard from you!

We paused the work on updating the policy statement early last summer and have, instead, been working on preparing a more inclusive and accessible public engagement process. This took some time, but you can anticipate hearing soon about the many ways in which you can participate.

Governance and Management Review

A select committee of Trust Council has been guiding a review of the governance, management and operational structure, focusing on the effectiveness of three key elements: governance in determining the strategic direction of the organization; planning services; and advocacy activity. The consultant’s report will be publicly available in March. I anticipate that recommendations will range in complexity and time scale.

I also anticipate that the public will need to be engaged in order to implement many of the recommendations. You have my commitment to get this report out to the public as soon as possible, which should be around the March 8-10 Trust Council meeting.

Strategic Planning Initiatives

Trust Council’s work is guided by a strategic plan, which you can find on the Islands Trust website.

There are several actions outlined in the plan, but I want to provide you with information regarding Trust Council’s decision to ask senior government for the same authority that municipalities have in order to regulate issues around trees (under Section 8 of the Community Charter). These are also known as tree protection bylaws or, in some municipalities, tree cutting bylaws. I know there is considerable concern with the Islands Trust advocating for these powers. The province is taking a cautious approach and has requested more information on how this authority would be used.

If the Islands Trust is granted this or a customized form of this authority, each local trust committee would still need to develop and implement their own tree bylaws. I have heard a strong desire from some Salt Springers for an approach that favours stewardship, education and voluntary compliance rather than imposing new bylaws. Should the Trust be granted the new provincial authority, I will consult with the community before formulating any directions to staff.

As one of your two elected trustees, I want you to know that I value your input. Please feel free to reach out to me via email at lpatrick@islandstrust.bc.ca.

One of the easiest ways to keep up to date on what we’re working on is to subscribe on the Islands Trust website. Make sure to click on the News Releases box to receive notifications on the Trust Council activities.

The writer is a Salt Spring Island Local Trust Committee member and a member of the Islands Trust Council Executive Committee.

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