Sayward gets 29 per cent tax cut in regional district budget

The Strathcona Regional District has approved a financial plan that contains a 5.3 per cent tax increase for Campbell River taxpayers

The Strathcona Regional District has approved a financial plan that contains a 5.3 per cent tax increase for Campbell River taxpayers.

That translates to a $10.72 increase over 2013 rates and is estimated to be $213.40 for residential taxpayers with an average assessed home of $260,971.

Directors adopted the 2014 budget at its board meeting last Thursday.

The budget contains a 0.3 per cent tax increase for Zeballos, an 8.9 per cent decrease for Tahsis, and a significant 29 per cent tax cut for Sayward due to a decrease in administration and planning costs.

Gold River will also see a tax decrease, at 2.4 per cent, due to a reduction in administration and planning costs as well as a decrease on what it pays into the Strathcona emergency program and 911 answering service.

But while most municipalities within the regional district are seeing a decrease, that’s not the case for all areas.

Cortes Island faces a 0.3 per cent tax increase, much to resident Wendy Legare’s dismay.

Legare told the board, “Cortes Island faces serious problems with accumulating years of rising ferry fares combined with the impending cutbacks” and high tax rates are only making the situation worse.

“Area B (Cortes Island) has the lowest population of all four electoral areas and we have the second highest estimated average household tax in the entire district at $732.61 on the average assessed home of $344,953,” Legare said. “Lesser expensive municipalities such as Gold River, Sayward, pay less than $100. Tahsis and Zeballos as well.”

The Kyuquot/Nootka portion of Area A has an estimated tax rate of $94.29 for the average home while the Sayward part of Area A is expected to pay $416.69 on average. Area C’s tax rate is set at $360.68 for 2014 while in Area D, taxpayers will pay $1,339.03 on average.

Legare said her main concern for Cortes is how much the island is spending on community park reserves and on grants-in-aid for community groups.

Cortes has budgeted $145,000 in 2014 for community parks and $25,000 for grants-in-aid. Area A (Nootka area) has allocated $4,778 for community grants-in-aid while Quadra Island has budgeted $13,586 for grants-in-aid and $145,000 for parks – the same as Cortes. Legare said that’s too much.

“Previous years’ contributions to grants-in-aid and community parks reserves have been modest compared to these last years where our contributions have doubled,” Legare said. “Cortes does not even own any of our regional district parks although we have paid for them and must pay the expenses to maintain them in the parks budget. At 4,200 acres plus, Cortes, or Area B, has more recognized parkland per person than all of British Columbia. It would seem to me, in these times, community parks should not be a priority. Why not make some service adjustments?”

But while directors listened to what Legare had to say, the budget passed with the parks and grants-in-aid allocations as is.