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Cortes Island binding referenda to proceed in tandem

Non-binding questions for first responder service, hall tax passed last month
One referendum question concerns establishing first response for medical emergencies. File photo/Campbell River Mirror

When Cortes Island residents finally decide on proposals for first responder training and service and for the establishment of a hall tax, they will likely do so at the same time.

At the latest Strathcona Regional District meeting on Nov. 7, Area B Director Noba Anderson made a motion for the two items to proceed before the electorate in tandem. This followed motion to receive reports on the two matters presented to the SRD board.

Anderson made a motion that the two referendum processes move in tandem so that residents can end up going to the polls to answer both questions at the same time.

The board had voted earlier this year that the matters first go to non-binding referenda held in conjunction with the local elections in October.

RELATED STORY: Cortes Island to vote on hall tax idea in fall elections

Anderson cited a couple of reasons for her wish the two move in tandem. The first is to save on costs by holding both votes at the same time. Also, she said she felt both processes are at the same place in terms of staff having drafted bylaws for the initiatives.

“I would request that the board, when you receive these items in the future, we really do our very best to keep these items moving forward, so that there’s some possibility they could be put in the 2019 budget,” she said.

Prior to the motion, she spoke about the support for each proposal during last month’s vote. A staff report has put the amount to be raised for first response as an estimated $41,000 in the first year and $25,000 in the second and beyond to cover training for fire department members to provide first response. The idea received 547 votes in favour, with 84 opposing.

“That’s … substantial majority support,” she said.

RELATED STORY: Cortes Island emergency response service goes to referendum

Anderson also touched on the proposal to establish a hall tax, which has been the subject of contention within the Cortes community.

“Unlike the first responder initiative, this has been before the board a few times,” she said.

Despite the controversy, a majority of voters supported the idea to establish the tax to provide a stable source of revenue for local groups to continue programming on Cortes Island.

This would happen through a parcel tax or by raising the mill rate. The annual amount needed has been listed as $75,000 in staff reports.

“There was 70 per cent support for this in the community,” Anderson said. “I’d very much like this to also have this go to binding referendum, and have both of these matters settled.”

The SRD staff report indicated 443 voted in favour of the tax while 191 voted against the idea.

The Area B Director also expects a staff report for an upcoming board meeting to provide more details on the process for the items to go to the binding referenda.