Since my last news article, I have met with the CCRD in response to several questions that were developed (at the public meeting August 21) and forwarded in a letter to the CCRD requesting a meeting. The CCRD is preparing a written response to those questions.
From the August 21 meeting “it is well known that people have become disillusioned regarding governance, generally speaking, and wish to point to what some may consider basic flaws with the electoral process and representation that need to be looked at and responded to: 1. Alternates for board members should be elected not appointed, 2. Representation in electoral areas, 3. The perceived conflict of interest of Board members especially regarding the voting of tax increases, and, 4. Public involvement of major issues and tax hikes and lack of dissemination of CCRD information and or rational to the public.”
“As a consequence, some issues that should be looked into and addressed are: 1. An explanation of the 31% increase in taxes (what increased services are being received for this inordinately high rise in taxes), 2. Confusion about the process of CCRD bids (open tender versus in-house awarding of contracts), 3. Will there be a certified financial audit, and 4. An explanation of financial support for a privately owned water system at Shearwater.
Information regarding Regional Districts can be found on the internet by typing in “Local Government Department” and then “Regional District”.
It should be known that population figures are to be used only in the determination of voting strength and director representation. The population includes people residing on Indian Reserves.
Revenue used to finance regional district operations and services is generated through property taxes, fees and other charges. Unlike municipalities, regional districts are required to match the costs of services to the people that benefit from the services. In other words, residents pay for what they get.
The province can change the boundary of the regional district and its electoral areas by amending the Letters Patent – a legal document creating the regional district and its boundary – and the local government department facilitates these changes through a restructure process. I must confess that I am happy that we have a local government, otherwise I tend to think that we would be a lone voice in the wilderness and we may not receive all of the services we pay for or want or need. In saying that, it is also our responsibility to participate in the electoral process or suffer any consequences.
Regional districts can provide a broad range of services with the exception of roads and policing. The choice of services is determined by the regional board but only with the support of the electors. Therefore, the breadth of services varies with each regional district according to its circumstances and local opinion.
Regional districts are the planning jurisdiction for electoral areas and can adopt zoning bylaws, develop official community plans and develop a regional growth strategy. In places where regional districts provide services such as water and sewer, they own the infrastructure and are responsible for maintaining it.
The local government department approves of certain regional district bylaws. The Inspector of Municipalities is responsible for approving service area establishment bylaws and borrowing bylaws as well as for processing regional district financial requisitions. The Minister of Community and Rural Development approves certain land-use bylaws. In addition, the department plays a role facilitating service reviews and regional growth strategies.
The CCRD did present me with a rational regarding the Tax Levy Increase. The board considered a Five-Year Financial Plan over three consecutive board meeting starting December 13, 2012. On page 2 of the Tax Requisition Summary by Function report asks the board of directors to consider an overall tax levy of $268,000 or 58.6% increase from last year.
The report also indicated that the board will need to have some assurance that service levels would or will increase to the same extent as the tax requisition levels. As an alternative option, the report asks the board directors to consider an overall tax levy of $144,000 or 31.3% increase from last year, while stating that the board of Directors will continue to be concerned about an increase of this magnitude.
The rational for the use of the Tax Levy increase revolves around 5 main components, in short:
1. Land use planning specifically – updated Office Community Plan, Zoning and Subdivision bylaws, and administrative staff actively involved in providing public services. 2. Library – where the increase is a directive from the Vancouver Island Regional Library board. 3. General Operations – expenses associated outstanding policy matters (bylaws), establishment of the Denny Island water service, enhancement of organizational governance capabilities, one-time coast of hiring a new CAO and a contingency of $10,000. 4. Swimming Pool – especially maintenance of the aging facility and increased operational costs. 5. Thorsen Creek Waste and Recycling Center – ensures the land fill’s life cycle is optimized and where the revenue generated will not go far enough to address the serious issues associated with this function.
I hope this article will assist while understanding the pressures that most people are under financially on fixed incomes and the pressure the CCRD is under to try to maintain services. We need to participate in the electoral process as we are the masters of our own destiny and I personally like that perspective. This includes public participation in the development of official community plans and the development of a regional growth strategy.
In saying all of this, the Vancouver Health Authority are having a public meeting on October 1 and I encourage all of us in the valley to attend that meeting and get involved with our health care. I will respond with a further article once the CCRD has responded to the questions raised at the August Public meeting.