Regional district approves seven-year funding term for Strathcona Gardens redevelopment

A move to extend the financing period for a major redevelopment of Strathcona Gardens from five years to seven means Campbell River taxpayers will pay less than the $90 originally estimated for the project, but it’s not enough for Charlie Cornfield.

Cornfield, one of five Campbell River directors on the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) board, did not support the SRD’s five-year financial plan for 2016-2020 based on the effect it would have on property owners in the city.

Despite Cornfield’s opposition, the board did adopt the 2016-2020 financial plan bylaw at its March 24 meeting.

During the board meeting, financial services manager Dawn Christensen told the board that the two changes the board requested at its March 9 meeting have now been implemented and incorporated into the financial plan. One change was a $42,000 contribution from Gas Tax funds to an energy retrofit project at Whaletown Community Centre on Cortes Island, which has no tax implications, she explained.

The other change was the extension of the financing period for the major facility redevelopment plan for Strathcona Gardens, which was five years in the original plan and has now been changed to seven years.

“The bylaw that you see before you would actually implement the plans and the strategic direction of the board for the next five years,” she said.

The financial plan incorporates a long-term vision for the redevelopment of the Strathcona Gardens facility, building in an annual reserves contribution of $1.45 million so the SRD can provide matching funds for grant opportunities as they arise, CAO Dave Leitch wrote in his introductory message in the financial plan. The project is budgeted at $21.8 million and Leitch says external funding options will be sought.

The estimated tax per $100,000 residential assessment for Campbell River property owners for Strathcona Gardens in 2016 is $84.02, up $19.89 from 2015.

“I won’t be supporting the bylaw given the changes to Campbell River,” Cornfield told the board. “It means an increase of $270,000 in the general government administration budget for the $49,000 municipal members administration increase and a further $1.11 million [increase] in Strathcona Gardens. I can’t support one where the increase is all put into a single year.

In year 2017-18, it’s a zero increase being proposed, and I think it’s far better when we’re putting in reserves and we phase that in over time, like we did with the hospital, which was phased in over time. I can’t support it in its current form.”

In the financial plan, as Cornfield said, the cost of member municipality administration for Campbell River increases from $202,249 in 2015 to $251,963 in 2016. The requisition for Strathcona Gardens rises from $3,174,599 in 2015 to $4,286,444 in 2016. Campbell River sees an increase in the administration and general government requisition from $288,674 in 2015 to $561,418 in 2016.

The Estimated Tax Rate Analysis for the SRD taxes in the financial plans shows the average household property tax in Campbell River rising from $217.43 in 2015 to $300.78 in 2016. That’s an increase of 38.3 per cent or $83.85.

Electoral Area D also pays into Strathcona Gardens and the requisition for Strathcona Gardens increases from $530,792 in 2015 to $715,267 in 2016.

The Estimated Tax Rate Analysis for the SRD taxes shows the average household property tax in Area D growing from $1,421.03 in 2015 to $1,643.90 in 2016, a change of $222.87 or 15.7 per cent.

Cornfield said that he was able to calculate for the average house in Campbell River, the increase was about $81 a year and in future years, he would like to have an estimate of the impact to the business class included in financial plans as well.

“It’s difficult to support something unless I know what the impact is to business and other classes because that’s a significant contribution in our city,” he said.

Because the regional district’s financial plan bylaw needed to be adopted before March 31, the board did all three readings of the 2016-2020 Financial Plan and Capital Expenditure Program bylaw and adopted the bylaw in one meeting.

Leitch told the board the regional district had not received any written submissions regarding the budget prior to the deadline. As well, nobody from the public spoke up about the budget during on March 24.

Electoral Area B director Noba Anderson expressed appreciation to staff for working on the financial plan.

“I just want to extend a really sincere thank you to our finance department as well as thank Dawn for her outstanding time on this,” she said. “I’ve been learning more and more that she works much more than a regular work week and I just want to acknowledge that. However unsustainable it might be, thank you.”