Preliminary budgets for the Capital Regional District’s three electoral areas were reviewed by the Electoral Areas Committee and CRD Board last Wednesday, setting the stage for the regional district’s draft financial plan presentation at the end of the month.
The amount of money the CRD aims to collect through property taxes is set to rise by 6.08 per cent in 2020, although with a 4.42 per cent decrease to the Capital Regional Hospital District rate, the total increase comes to 4.6 per cent on average. Subscribers to some local water services on Salt Spring will actually see decreases to their service rates, including members of the Highland, Cedar Lane and Fulford water systems.
Key drivers for the Salt Spring budget increase include an added $35,000 to the Salt Spring Public Library contribution, $9,000 more toward transit, $20,000 more for public arts, a $198,000 increase to community parks and facilities expenditures, and a $60,000 increase for septage hauling/composting expenditures. The parks increase is significantly offset by an anticipated increase in revenue from programs for a net increase of only $58,905.
Not included in the budget at this point is a proposed safety service for Salt Spring, which director Gary Holman has suggested would start with a budget of $35,000 if approved by local residents. A meeting on the service was planned for Tuesday, Oct. 15. (See next week’s Driftwood for the report.)
Holman and CRD staff will host a CRD budget information meeting at Lions Hall on Thursday, Oct. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.
Major capital project contributions for 2020 include $1.095 million to complete the North Ganges Transportation Plan, $1 million toward the Fulford-Ganges Road resurfacing project (contingent on public approval), and $415,000 for park, pool and trail improvements.
Other notable changes for 2020 include a 10.45 per cent increase to CRD regional services, which incorporates a 26 per cent hike for legislative and general government services.
“In my 11 years here I’ve never ever seen a 26 per cent increase … For our taxpayers, that’s $28,000 and that’s a lot of shing-aling for us,” Juan de Fuca Electoral Area Director Mike Hicks said, questioning the hike during the Oct. 9 Electoral Areas Committee meeting.
He added that it seemed hard to ask local services like fire departments to keep their budgets tight, when the CRD does not seem to be exercising the same restraint.
The CRD’s chief financial officer Nelson Chan said detailed information would be forthcoming at the presentation on the financial plan scheduled for a CRD committee-of-the-whole meeting on Oct. 30.
Southern Gulf Islands director Dave Howe asked whether it’s fair to say that 50 per cent or more of the electoral area budgets are out of local control. Chan said it was correct that around half of the SGI budget is related to local area services, and the other half covers regional, sub-regional and joint-electoral matters.
For more on this story, see the Oct. 16, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.