Cortes Islanders are split over a proposal to charge an annual tax to fund the Manson’s Hall, which acts as the island’s community centre and houses tenants such as the Post Office and a pre-school.

Proposed Cortes hall tax has ‘divided the community’ says anti-tax group

Dueling petitions were presented to Strathcona Regional District directors recently over an issue that some say has divided the community on Cortes Island.

A group of Cortes Islanders are pushing for a referendum to seek support for an annual tax to fund the community’s Manson’s Hall and possibly the Gorge Hall.

Sue Ellingsen, a referendum advocate, told electoral area regional district directors at an Oct. 11 meeting that the group has gathered 458 signatures on a petition asking for the regional district to hold a referendum.

“Everybody wants their voice heard and I don’t know of any other way this can be done,” Ellingsen said.

John Sprungman, who has been working with Ellingsen on the petition, said the tax would help the Southern Cortes Community Association keep the Manson’s Hall afloat.

“The board occasionally struggles to find money to keep the Manson’s Hall going,” Sprungman said. “There are a lot of people on Cortes who are in favour of tax support for our community halls.”

Manson’s Hall offers several programs, including yoga, a pre-school, toddler play group, a youth program, a Friday Market and seniors activities. It also houses the food bank, a pottery studio, the post office and Cortes radio station office, among other things.

Julian Ayers, president of the Southern Cortes Community Association, which operates the hall, said a reduction in grants, including a B.C. gaming grant, has prompted the hall to seek $46,000 annually, indexed to inflation, in sustainable core funding supported by a tax base.

“We lost a few primary tenants. Most were replaced but at lower rates,” Ayers said. “Some years are not as successful and we’re barely able to keep the doors open. We had to reduce our hours and services last winter.”

But not everyone on Cortes is happy with the possibility of paying for the hall, and more than 200 residents have signed a counter petition.

Maureen Bader, spokesperson for the Cortes Coalition for Responsible Governance, said Cortes islanders already struck down a proposal for hall taxes in 2010, and said nothing has changed since then.

“We had two hall service tax bylaws defeated in 2010, just because the process didn’t give an answer the proponents liked, doesn’t mean we have to be beaten again with the same stick,” Bader said. “This issue has once again divided the community.”

Bader added that the tax would be a burden.

“A new tax-funded non-essential service is inappropriate on an island that has a small population with an average household income of $25,000,” she said. “So we would contend that most Cortes Islanders can’t actually afford to pay more taxes and quite frankly, shouldn’t be forced to.”

Cortes resident Rod Lee seconded that.

“We don’t want to impose a tax on ourselves when we have governments to do that for us,” said Lee, noting Cortes property owners already pay enough in taxes. “And we do recognize the importance and the need for essential services. For something like the hall, which we don’t see as essential, I’d like to keep those tax details in mind.”

Bader said they can see the value in the hall but said at the same time, the association needs to live within its means.

“It’s a little bit like BC Lottery’s tag line, ‘know your limit, play within it’ and that’s what we want to see,” Bader said.

According to the Southern Cortes Community Association’s financial statements, in 2016/17 the association received $78,926.28 in capital improvement grants, donations and program grants, which includes a $23,450 B.C. gaming grant. Up until last year, the association was receiving $38,950 in gaming grants.

Financial statements show that in 2016, the community association generated $113,048 in revenue through grants, fundraising, long-term rentals, occasional rentals, the Friday Market, programs and a program gaming grant. Programming and operating expenses cost $112,035 which left $1,013 in excess. Projections for this year, however, show $110,138 in revenue due to a drop in the gaming grant and $118,625 in expenses, for a deficit of $8,486. The association is forecasting deficits of $19,080 in both 2018 and 2019, based on predictions of cuts to grant funding.

Whether or not the issue goes to a referendum is still up in the air, however, as Dave Leitch, CAO of the regional district, stressed that at this point a lot more information needs to be gathered before a decision can be made on whether or not a hall tax, or even a referendum, is appropriate.

“I have no answers because I’ve received so much conflicting information, I don’t know without consulting the community,” he said. “I will be in touch with everybody.”

Cortes Director Noba Anderson, who is currently on leave from board meetings, said she believes a referendum is appropriate.

“I am most certainly in favour of a referendum on this matter,” she said. “It’s the only democratic way to decide this matter.”

In the meantime, regional district staff will be going to the community to undertake preliminary consultation with the Cortes Island community and will report back to the board with what they heard.

The Southern Cortes Community Association’s financial statements can be found at: https://agenda.strathconard.ca/SRDAttachments/SRDCommittees/Open/EAS/11-Oct-17/Delegation-COMBINED.pdf


 

@CRMirror
kristend@campbellrivermirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

In other news:

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Island Votes. Campbell River Mirror graphic
Babchuk declared winner in North Island

Nearly three-quarters of votes counted and mail-in ballots still to come

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

The volunteers at the Campbell River Seniors’ Centre have been waiting seven months to welcome people back to the facility, and are happy to have all the necessary safety precautions in place to do so, including a sign-in booth at the entrance for contact tracing requirements. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbel River Mirror
Campbell River Seniors’ Centre re-opens after seven months of COVID closure

‘If we close it again, it’s possible it won’t ever re-open, and the community needs this facility’

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read