Strathcona Regional District asks Campbell River council to consider tax increase

SRD is looking for council’s permission to increase how much it can tax for emergency services

The Strathcona Regional District wants city council to agree to raise the amount of taxes Campbell River property owners pay for the region’s emergency services program.

Campbell River council will deal with the request at Tuesday’s council meeting.

Myriah Foort, city finance manager, explained the impact to council in an email.

“The Strathcona Regional District is seeking city consent of an amendment to its emergency services bylaw, to increase the maximum amount taxable on city residents from $0.03 for every $1,000 of taxable assessment to $0.375 cents for every $1,000 taxable assessment – a 25 per cent increase,” Foort wrote.

The regional district wants to raise the requisition limit in order to keep up the service and address gaps that have been identified in emergency planning.

“Following consultation with communities throughout the region, a number of areas have been identified where additional resources would enable the regional district to provide a more effective and robust emergency preparedness service,” said Dave Leitch, CAO of the Strathcona Regional District. “This includes the occasional purchase of minor capital items such as containers for emergency supplies and portable emergency radio equipment.”

The current requisition limit of $0.03 per $1,000 of property assessments has not changed since the emergency program’s inception in 2005 when the Strathcona Regional District was still a part of the joint Comox-Strathcona Regional District.

If the maximum amount taxable on Campbell River taxpayers is ultimately approved, for the owner of the average Campbell River home (which is valued at $303,000), it would translate to a $2.25 increase in taxes paid to the regional district.

”The current total requisition for SRD (Strathcona Regional District) emergency services is $199,000 of which city residents pay 67.4 per cent or $134,161,” Foort said. “This proposed change is estimated to increase the total requisition for SRD emergency services to $248,750 of which city residents would pay $167,701.

The emergency preparedness program exists to provide coordination, leadership and support for emergency preparedness programs and activities throughout the region, including response to emergencies and disaster situations on an as-needed basis. The goal of the program is to help individuals and organizations become resilient and adaptive so that they are better prepared in the event of an emergency and have the tools necessary to help themselves stay alive in the aftermath of an emergency.

However, Tom Yates, the regional district’s corporate services manager, said it’s come to the attention of regional district staff that not all communities are as prepared as they could, or should, be.

“The program recognizes that disasters are not constrained by municipal boundaries and that individual communities may lack sufficient resources to adequately prepare for or manage emergency situations without assistance,” Yates said. “Much of the focus of the program is to increase capacity at the local level through the recruitment and retention of volunteer resources to provide quick response when the safety of the public or its property is at risk.”

Shaun Koopman, the regional district’s protective services coordinator, said the “information, gaps and themes” that he proposed and the areas where support could be enhanced were identified in consultation with municipal staff and emergency planning stakeholders from Read Island, Campbell River, Quadra Island, Cortes Island, Gold River, Sayward, Tahsis and Zeballos.

In order of priority, those improvements are as follows:

  • Increased operational grant funding for program support for emergency support services and emergency communications team volunteers.
  • Sustainable emergency backup coverage.
  • Increased funding for exercise support for regional, village and municipal staff.
  • Enhanced Emergency Operations Centre capacity.
  • Enhanced emergency communications infrastructure.
  • Emergency supplies in sea cans.
  • Funding for pre-disaster convergent volunteer management.