Cowichan Valley Regional District board approves lowest tax hike in years
Squeaky citizen wheels got the fiscal grease in the CVRD’s new budget boasting the smallest tax hike in two decades, Area E’s director explained.
Loren Duncan (Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora) was happy public outcry about rising taxes forced the board to basically hold the line to a 2.36% tax-requisition increase in its $76.9 million budget for 2014 —$30.7 million of which is tax based.
“Public vigilance is the best tool to force those things,” he said. “There’s been general pressure on the CVRD to look at its financials.”
Directors apparently saw they had to reduce spending and taxes from a four-year average increase of 8.4%.
“How come we’ve been about eight- to 9% forever — and I’ve been bellyaching about that — and this year we’re 2% and bit? Because there’s been pressure from the public that they’ve had enough.”
Cowichan Bay homeowners enjoy the biggest financial windfall, a $5.95 tax drop. At the other end of the spectrum, Youbou/Meade Creek folks are facing a $48.90 tax jump.
Duncan also recognized the CVRD has frozen senior staff wages due to taxpayer complaints.
“That’s peanuts in the scheme of things, but it puts pressure on everyone — and shows there was lots of slack and fat in the budgets.”
Salary and wages total $15.2 million, accounting for 19.7% of the total budget, CVRD corporate services manager Mark Kueber emailed the News Leader Pictorial. “Any increases to staff salaries, and any severances for 2014, is included in these (total budget) figures.”
Those figures include a $335,000 severance package, reached privately recently with departing CAO Warren Jones, Kueber indicates.
The largest expenditure category is capital at $17.1 million, or 22.2% of the budget, Kueber notes.
“The tax impact for each jurisdiction is different; it all depends on what services are provided and if there is an increase, or not, in that service. Not every area receives every service. The CVRD only provides those services that have been approved by recipients,” he said.
Meanwhile, Duncan admitted he joined directors Mary Marcotte (North Oyster/Diamond), and Ian Morrison (Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls) in opposing this year’s budget.
“One of my reasons is that the Island Savings Centre is out control financially,” Duncan said of ISC’s budget lift of some 2%, partially to boost building-replacement reserves.
“It’s not falling down, and its budget has grown relentlessly, particularly for the theatre. There aren’t proper (spending) controls in there at all.”
Cowichan’s transit system also bothered Duncan. He claimed his residents pay 70% more in assessed property for transit services compared to North Cowichan taxpayers.
“The financial relationship of Area E to transit is predatory.”
Despite cuts, tax jacks of some level seemed inevitable to Duncan.
“If you take a certain amount out of the hide, and the hide shrinks a bit, you still have to take something out of the hide,” he said.
How it will affect you
Dollar impact for the average CVRD residential properties:
• City of Duncan -$2.82
• North Cowichan (South) $6.47
• North Cowichan (North) $3.67
• Town of Ladysmith $46.74
• Town of Lake Cowichan -$5.13
• Electoral Area A $2.92
• Electoral Area B $19.98
• Electoral Area C $14.31
• Electoral Area D -$5.95
• Electoral Area E $3.62
• Electoral Area F $33.71
• Electoral Area G $6.30
• Electoral Area H $18.68
• Electoral Area I $48.90
* Amount only represents the regional tax portion for municipalities