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Strathcona Regional District looks to hold taxation line

It’s a hold-the-line budget for the Strathcona Regional District.

“It’s fiscally-restrained, a more conservative approach,” said chief administrative officer Brian Reardon. “Basically it’s status quo. We’re keeping costs down to the rate of inflation.”

A stagnant North Island economy is the reason elected directors have been whittling away at costs in order to keep budget increases minimal. The board votes Thursday to approve the budget.

Area D (from Oyster River to the Ocean Grove area) will see the biggest increase of $113 per home owner based on an average residential assessment of $304,643.

The main reason for the increase, said Reardon, is costs associated with the Strathcona Gardens complex; Area D shares the costs of the pool and two arenas with Campbell River.

The Rod Brind’Amour Arena requires significant infrastructure repairs, particularly to the floor, boards and brine lines.

The cost of the project is just under $1 million and Reardon is hopeful the district will receive a $400,000 grant to support the work.

The rest of the funding for the 2013 project was supposed to come from taxation, but now the board is expected to borrow the money. Funds have been set aside to do the planning work and drawings.

Additionally, the board cut $333,400 from the Gardens’ capital reserve.

This was supposed to fund the second phase of arena upgrades estimated at $2.5 million.

The plan, said Reardon, is to modernize and increase the size of the changerooms, but now further public consultation will take place before phase two moves forward.

To make matters worse, the Gardens’ concession stand, run by union employees, is a financial burden.

The concession lost $22,043 in 2011, $18,131 in 2010, and $11,291 in 2009.

 

Sewers stalled

 

Also for Area D, the first phase of sewer work will not begin this year for the neighbourhood just south of Jubilee Parkway. Reardon said meetings will take place to update the public on the project and it is hoped that work will begin in 2013.

Taxpayers in Area B (Cortes Island) will see an increase this year of $46 per home owner, based on an average residential assessment of $352,341.

The good news is that some taxpayers will see a decrease in their tax bill. On Quadra Island (Area C) homeowners can expect a $33 reduction, based on an average residential assessment of $340,432.

Home owners in Sayward and the West Coast (Area A) will also see modest reductions of $6 and $1 respectively, based on average assessments of $210,403 and $159,741.

On Quadra, long-time area director Jim Abram said he’s done everything possible to reduce costs due to the economy.

“We are struggling on Quadra Island. We can’t afford to pay anymore,” he said.

Abram said he voted against creating two new regional district services for tourism and economic development.

However, both potential new services will be examined by the board this year.

Also this year, the board will review remuneration for directors. According to a line in the budget discussions, the directors are considering boosting their total allowance from $132,600 to $162,248.

Reardon says the proposal is still being looked at and a decision is expected in April or May.

The public can attend Thursday’s board meeting. The Strathcona Regional District office is located at 301-990 Cedar St., in Campbell River. The meeting starts at 10:30 a.m.

More information is available online at www.strathconard.ca

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