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Comox Strathcona cutting tax requsition for region’s waste management

Staff also expect to transfer savings associated with COVID-19 to reserves
Marc Rutten, general manager of engineering services for Comox Strathcona Waste Management. Black Press file photo

The Comox Strathcona Waste Management board plans on cutting the amount of its tax requisition for the coming year.

At the Dec. 3 board meeting, staff presented the board, composed of local and regional elected officials from the Comox Valley and Strathcona regional districts, with the preliminary 2021-2025 financial plan.

Most notably, the budget calls for a drop in the amount being requisitioned from property owners, dropping from $6 million in 2020 down to $5 million. A staff report notes there might need to be inflationary adjustments to the requisition amount.

“We do feel that the reduction is sustainable across all five years of the plan,” general manager of engineering services Marc Rutten told the board.

On a house worth $500,000, the requisition should work out to about $80 per year, or about $16 less than the current year.

RELATED STORY: Single-use bags divide Comox-Strathcona waste board

As far as tipping fees, these are expected to remain at $140 per tonne for the coming year and small increases in following years. The aim, according to the staff report, is to keep the fees close to the cost charged by neighbouring districts to avoid waste leakage and to mitigate illegal dumping. Cowichan Valley charges $148, Alberni Clayoquot and Nanaimo charge $130 and Mount Waddington charges $125.

The budget includes a 3.7 per cent increase for staffing, though this will mostly cover contractual wage increases. There are no new full-time positions planned, though CSWM would like to add a student engineer position for the year to help with the major capital projects it had planned. About one per cent of the increase is slated for sick time. With COVID-19 expected to persist into 2021, the provisions are to cover anyone who is sick.

Under operating expenses, staff also plan on devoting money saved due to COVID-19 this year from reduced travel and other expenses toward reserves for the future. Other savings will come from closing non-Recycle BC depots and leachate treatment changes.

The plan is for a next draft of the proposed budget to come forward in early 2021, with the board to weigh on a recommended version in March.

“We’re really looking for feedback and discussion on this initial budget so that we can incorporate that,” Rutten told the board. “If you want to see changes, now is definitely the time to ask for those.”

Board member Jim Abram asked about reducing the tax requisition further instead of transferring money to reserves, while his colleague Brenda Leigh suggested moving in the other direction, saying the amount saved by a lesser tax requisition was minimal at $16 per house and that it would be more beneficial reducing the tipping fees. Haulers, she added, would be likely to raise their rates in response to higher tipping fees imposed by the region.

Rutten responded that they had considered the question of the tax cut but felt it was best to move some savings into the reserves.

“We are bringing something forward that is sustainable and achievable,” he said.

(This story has been edited to correct a typo on the average requisition amount per household.)

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