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  • Gayle Baker

Anyone Interested in Salt Spring's Proposed $7.1 Million CRD Budget????

November 12

Ten Salt Springers gathered in ASK Salt Spring’s new winter location, the Library Program Room, to welcome CRD’s Gary Holman. After the Territorial Acknowledgment, we asked Gary to share what was on his mind. While he was focused on the CRD’s 2022 provisional budget, he also indicated that he is working with the Lady Minto Foundation, which may purchase the SeaBreeze Inne for health worker housing, and other agencies to help secure shelter for those currently living there.

Concerning the CRD 2022 proposed budget (details below), we learned that the $7.1 million tax requisition for the Capital Regional District and the Hospital District is an increase of 3.25% over 2021, an increase of an estimated $34 per “average” household to $1,067 in 2022.

Our Salt Spring tax requisition is comprised of:

  • A portion of CRD regional services paid by all municipalities and electoral districts.

  • Some expenditures funded by some of the local governments within CRD. (Examples of this are elections and building inspection funded by the three electoral areas - Salt Spring, Southern Gulf Islands, and Juan de Fuca - and fire dispatch funded by the three electoral areas and some municipalities.)

  • The largest portion - those expenditures solely for Salt Spring services.

We learned that an example of the Salt Spring benefits from regional services is the $3 million committed by the Capital Region Hospital District to help fund our new Lady Minto Emergency Room. Gary also told us of the success of Capital Regional Housing Corporation’s affordable housing program, projected to have completed 3,500 CRD-supported affordable housing units by 2025, including the 56 Croftonbrook units on Salt Spring Island. Gary is hopeful that the CRD Drake Road housing project on land generously donated by School District 64 will also begin to move forward soon.

On a sub-regional level, the move of our 9-1-1 dispatch service from Langford to Saanich will result in upgraded technology with a lower cost. (NOTE: At a previous ASK Salt Spring gathering, RCMP’s Sergeant Clive Seabrook told us that Saanich dispatch is endeavoring to collect local names of locations that do not currently appear on official maps. If anyone has some local name suggestions, please send them to ask@asksaltspring, and we will make sure that this information is relayed.)

The single largest portion of the tax increase for local services is the increase in the PARC requisition to help fund the Middle School (SIMS) as a community centre. Interested in touring the Middle School? You are invited to an Open House Friday, December 3, from 10:00 am - 1:00 pm. Early in 2022, local non-profits can apply to the PARC Commission for space. Taxpayer support for the operation and management of the Middle School will allow these groups to secure space at below market rental rates.

Another possibility is that if the School District at some point is prepared to consider longer term tenure at the Middle School, CRD offices (for administration and building inspection), as well as Islands Trust offices - all currently rented at commercial rates - could be co-located there, a long standing goal to improve local governance. In addition to centralizing our services, local government rental income could also help subsidize rents for non-profits at SIMS.

Gary also mentioned that part of the 2022 requisition increase will help fund a new, part-time position for the Community Economic Development Commission (being renamed Community Economic Sustainability Commission.) This position could assist in implementing local climate and food security initiatives which are also economic development opportunities (e.g., energy conservation measures that reduce local spending).

One question from a participant highlighted concern about lighting in Centennial Park, citing the danger of the dark park at night. Gary explained that PARC Commissioners have recommended that CRD staff bring them a plan for lighting and security cameras there. While cognizant of avoiding football field-like floodlights, Gary agreed that more adequate lighting was needed. When asked when this lighting could be expected to be installed, Gary did not have an answer, reminding us of the 24 on-going PARC projects, not including the leasing of the Middle School, negotiations concerning Maxwell Mountain property, and the long-delayed HarbourWalk project.

Gary was asked why overnight camping was not prohibited and enforced. We were reminded that, as an unincorporated region, we do not own our roads and, if we were to take on that liability, we would be responsible for a daunting 265 kilometers of poorly-built roads. Without owning our roads, local responses to parking requires collaboration among agencies, including the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI); Emcon, our roads maintenance contractor;. and the RCMP.

Recently, this collaboration has had some success. In response to unregistered, clearly abandoned vehicles, our RCMP, MoTI, and Emcon, partnered to have them towed. (MoTI and Emcon managers will join ASK Salt Spring Friday, November 26, 11-1 in the Library Program Room.)

Another participant lamented the lack of housing for those that earn too much to qualify for affordable housing but too little to rent or purchase a home on Salt Spring. Gary agreed that current affordable housing programs focus on rental rather than purchased homes, a policy position he supports. Concerning rental opportunities for those who earn too much to qualify for affordable housing, we learned that Phase 3 of Croftonbrook, expected to be completed summer of 2022, will have units designated for all three income tiers: 1) shelter rates, 2) subsidized affordable housing rates, and 3) low end of market rates. The Dragonfly project, which would provide affordable purchased housing on Drake Road, is also making progress.

In Gary’s assessment, while the housing crisis weighs heavily upon local governments, a large portion of the problem stems from decades of inaction by both the provincial and federal levels of government. While billions of dollars are now being spent by senior governments, decades of inaction will take years of consistent and substantial funding to counteract.

Gary sees the Speculation and Vacancy Tax (SVT) as one option to explore. Data from other jurisdictions in which the SVT is applied (including all municipalities in the CRD) indicates that if this tax were applied on Salt Spring, it could free up some homes for the rental market (the SVT is avoided if the home is rented) and help reduce speculative pressure on our local housing market.

Availability of water in Ganges is also a critical component for more affordable housing. North Salt Spring Water District’s (NSSWD) is reviewing its moratorium for new water connections, although the outcome of this review is not clear. In the meantime, alternative water supplies or measures (e.g., groundwater, rainwater catchment, grey water recycling) are becoming options for profit and non-profit developers.

As we know, Gary still strongly supports conversion of NSSWD to a CRD entity, a step that would allow NSSWD to apply for infrastructure funding to construct a new water treatment plant on Maxwell Lake (an Island Health requirement) and also address leaks in the distribution system. At this point, it appears that NSSWD has discontinued these discussions, even thought the province has indicated it would not expect NSSWD to convert to a CRD entity without a provincial commitment for infrastructure funding.

A participant noted all the critically-important issues facing our community could be better addressed if our decision-makers met regularly to solve these issues. Gary reminded us that discussions among various local agencies are ongoing on a whole range of issues and that the Islands Trust does offer monthly public town halls.

However, he did agree that a regular, public roundtable of decision-makers could help address some issues. Sound familiar? Our Sergeant Clive placed this gathering as one of his top priorities for our island at ASK Salt Spring last week. And, remember the Interagency Working Group proposed three years ago by the Community Alliance Governance Report (https://www.saltspringcommunityalliance.org/governance-options-on-salt-spring?

Gary offered his strong support for such a gathering. Wheels are still turning. Stay tuned. . . .!

And. . . keep reading. . .A summary of the 2022 provisional CRD Budget follows!

Please join us Friday, 11-1, in our new location at the Library Program Room. Masks will be required and room capacity is limited to 25. . .but, there will even be coffee to accompany the always-offered homemade chocolate chip cookies :)

See you Friday, November 19, 11-1, in the Library Program Room to welcome Islands Trustee Laura Patrick!

Would you like to learn more about:

- Salt Spring Planning Initiatives - Ganges Village Plan, Housing Action?

- Watershed Protection and Wildfire Resiliency?

- Federation Activities?

- Trust Policy Statement?

- Annual Budget?

And. . . .?.


Any question, anytime: ask@asksaltspring.com

Want to see reports from all the ASK Salt Spring gatherings?

asksaltspring.com

Want to help? ASK Salt Spring now has a Save-a-Tape box at Country Grocer.

We love your receipts! Remember: #15


CRD PROVISIONAL REQUISITION SUMMARY 2022

Budget Process

- CRD Board approved 2022 provisional budget Oct. 27. Local SSI services budgets developed by staff working with CRD Commissions and Director.

- CRD budget finalized March 2022, based on public consultation, updated

property assessments, and final data on 2021 surpluses or deficits.

COVID Impacts 2021

- COVID restrictions and related revenue impacts still significant for several CRD services (e.g., transit, pool). Service level/staffing adjustments, transfers from operating reserves and BC COVID relief funding helped cover deficits.

- Some reduction in services and public access to CRD meetings due to COVID, but major capital projects (e.g., Booth Canal-Central pathway, pool shared space addition and repairs, library office addition) all proceeded.

Overall CRD Requisition 2022

- Total 2022 CRD / CRHD requisition of $7.1 m, a 3.25% increase over 2021.

- Requisition per “average” residential household of $1,067 in 2022, an increase of $34/household over 2021. “Average” residence valued at $742,000 in 2021. Commercial, industrial tax rates higher than residential.

- Average CRD requisition increase of 2.9%/yr over 2018-22 period.

- CRD requisition per average household of $89/mo (versus $86/mo in 2021),

fund range of regional, sub-regional, and local services and amenities (e.g.,

general administration, elections, climate action, affordable housing, parks,

recreation facilities, health facilities, library, grants in aid, building inspection,

liquid waste, transit, pedestrian/cycling infrastructure, emergency planning

and communication, fire dispatch, community economic development, arts,

livestock injury compensation, Fernwood dock).

Major Factors in 2022 Requisition Increase

- Contractual increases in core inflation and CRD staff wages and salaries.

- Increases in regional administration and parks, offset partly by reductions in health facility debt carrying costs, new financing strategy for regional park acquisition, and re-negotiated fire dispatch service.

- PARC lease of SIMS as a community centre the largest local impact on CRD requisition. Other PARC increases due to pool repairs, COVID revenue decreases, bylaw enforcement, increases in transfers to capital reserves. Pool debt retirement partly offset PARC increases.

- $21,000 CEDC increase to partly fund coordinator position.

- Reduction in library financing cost offset costs of additional IT staffer and increase in transfers to capital reserves.

- $15,000 for transit improvements (e.g., to Long Harbour).

- $19,000 for liquid waste disposal in part due to higher contract hauling fees.

- $3,000 for establishment of SSI livestock injury compensation program.

- Provisional budget excludes proposed region-wide requisition increase for

CRD climate action service – requires consent of 2/3 of local governments.

Revenue Sources in Addition to Tax Requisition

- Some island-wide CRD-funded services (e.g., transit, swimming pool, liquid waste) and all area-specific services (water and sewage treatment), also partly supported by user fees. Residential recycling costs on SSI are covered entirely by provincial stewardship programs, Recycling BC fees on packaging, and tipping fees from CRD’s Hartland landfill.


For more details, comments, or questions on the CRD 2020 provisional budget, contact CRD Director Gary Holman (250-538-4307 or directorssi@crd.bc.ca).




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