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General News · 21st January 2010
Dietrich Schwarz
Much has been said in support of bylaw 55. Here are a few points to consider before we pass our opportunity to react.
The bylaw empowers the Strathcona District board to collect much more property tax than needed for its announced purpose, the maintenance and improvement of community halls. The rational reason for letting the bylaw pass as is would be to trust the district board not to use all the power transferred to them. Trust is a wonderful thing between friends, but a singularly poor rationale for tax legislation.
The bylaw is premature. Maintenance of the halls has been funded by grants. The SCCA has not yet received a reply for their grant request for this year; they expect a reply by mid February. The bylaw could be passed before anyone knows if and how much new funding is needed. After the bylaw has been passed, the same need for grants can no longer be claimed and the chance for future grants is dramatically reduced.
The bylaw would transfer control over the halls from the Cortes community to the district, where our Regional Director has only one of many votes. Whenever public administrators buy services, prices go up. Further, maintenance jobs are more likely to go to off-Cortes companies, depriving Cortesians of job opportunities. The need for funds will certainly grow after the surrender of local control.
Part of our community believes not to be affected, as the new taxes would be payable only by property owners. That is wrong. As taxes go up the costs of owning properties rise. Landlords will download new costs onto renters wherever possible. Thus, rents will increase as well.
The process chosen to get this bylaw passed is flawed and possibly in conflict with the law. The law requires three readings before presentation to the electorate. The district board held all three readings in one session on November 26th. Thus, for all practical purposes there was only one reading. Much of the community was informed about the right to oppose the bylaw in January, a very short time before the February 15th deadline for rejection. A significant part was not informed at all. Unfavorable dates, time spans and residency requirements have been used to exclude a segment of the electorate. Evidently the district board decided to pre-eliminate as many no-votes as possible.
A rejection of this bylaw does not prevent funding for our halls, not even on a property tax basis. Manson’s Hall will not collapse after a no-vote. A bylaw rejection would serve as an incentive to keep the taxing power within the limits of necessity, to use a fair and equitable process and to take advantage of thought and consultation in the community. A rejection of the present text of bylaw 55 would be a service to the community of Cortes Island.
Taxes are good
Comment by Michel Levesque on 15th February 2010
TAXES ARE GOODEverybody on cortes is rich.Everybody in canada is rich.Everyone chill.Pay your taxes!pay more taxesTaxes bring us everything from the ferrys to health care.Everyone! cough up!!! move on.Relax!Pay your taxes.Pay more taxes!Thank you noba for giving us more taxes to pay.Good will come from it.
It's a few hundred bucks...
Reply to Noba Anderson
Comment by Dietrich Schwarz on 24th January 2010
Noba Anderson entitles her comments “corrections”, but offers none.
Thus far, nobody argued against a need of funds for the building itself, just their size and source. Is Noba now promising that no programming will be funded by tax money? If so, that needs to be spelled out in the bylaw.
It is the SRD who decides what is taxed. The only options for us are to let the bylaw pass as is, or reject it outright. The SCCA board, a small minority of private, well meaning people, does not represent the taxed public. If it is the purpose of the bylaw to generate a pot of money for grants, then that needs to be spelled out in the text. If possible grants are exclusive, for the benefit of our community clubs, that needs to be clear as well.
As written, this bylaw absolutely transfers control over our halls to the SRD. If it is passed, we can only hope, with Noba, that the SRD will keep some control on our island, along with jobs that come with it. With her single vote, Noba cannot guarantee that, particularly not on the longer term. We should be careful not to dismiss, with her, the power of a new law.
There remains a possibility that the process for passing this bylaw conflicts with the law, until that question has been tested in court. In spite of the long time at the disposal of the SRD and our regional director, the process is being rushed through with the evident intent to pre-eliminate part of the electorate. We should not base our decision on the hopes and promises of our political representatives, but on the text of the bylaw and its worst possible consequences. This bylaw is immature and premature. If we let it pass, we are stuck with it, with or without or present regional director.
Comment by R Kroeker on 24th January 2010
Bylaw 55 will most definitely transfer a level of legal control of the halls (including the Gorge Hall, even if the WCC receives no tax revenue) to the SRD. Clause 3 is very clear:

“Service Defined
3. The Regional District may undertake and carry out, or cause to be carried out, the service of
operating and maintaining community hall facilities and shall be authorized to do all things
necessary or convenient in connection therewith including, without limiting the generality of the
foregoing, constructing, enlarging and improving facilities used for recreational, cultural or
educational uses of the public.”

While I heard the explanation given on Wednesday night, that this clause would only be used in unusual circumstances like the board’s inability to function, the fact remains that if passed as written, the SRD can legally do what it likes with respect to the halls at any time. I would suggest that if we really don’t want the SRD to run the day to day operation of the halls, the wording of this clause needs to be changed to clearly define circumstances under which this clause can be applied.

How can Noba say that the halls will not be administered by the SRD (her last correction) when on Wednesday night she gave an example of circumstances where they would be, i.e. the board was unable to function??

While there may be no intention of the SRD running the halls, this change in funding structure means we play by the SRD’s rules. There will be policies, procedures, processes, regulations, rules, reports to Staff, reports from Staff, and the list will grow over time. Noba spent much of her speaking time on Wednesday night explaining the policies, rules, procedures, etc of the RD. For example, “We can’t change the bylaw wording after third reading because there’s a policy.” We haven’t even passed the bylaw yet and already you start to get the picture.

Anyone who thinks that after passage of this bylaw the operation of the halls will continue exactly as it did before, with no changes, is kidding themselves. For example, how much time will be spent by the board of the SCCA meeting the information requirements of the SRD? The SRD is not simply going to write the cheque as requested each year. There will need to be some paperwork filled out first. I also suspect there are and will continue to be other conditions for this funding. The SRD has what lawyers call a fiduciary responsibility for the money and as a result will care more about their policies and procedures being followed that what actually happens with the halls. Bureaucrats exist to administer bureaucracies and if they don’t have them, they create them.

Perhaps there are a couple of more corrections that should be made:

In the Q&A sent out to residents in the flyer, the answer “NO!” to question 1 is misleading if not incorrect. At the meeting, when asked if this bill would provide funding to replace the hall if it were to be destroyed, Noba mused that perhaps we could go to the full requisition amount to fund rebuilding. Perhaps “NO” should be “Not this year.” or “Not as far as we know now.” but the bylaw legally enables taxes to rise by fifty cents per thousand for community hall purposes.

For those who rationalize this tax increase saying “it’s the cost of lunch based on a home assessed at $200k”, take a scroll through the Assessment BC website to see just how many Cortes homes are assessed at $200k or under. I did a quick random scan on some Whaletown area street addresses and found 3 out of 58 were assessed at $200k or less. It may be time for a reality check and a new example to make your point. It’s now starting to be a very fancy lunch, maybe with a glass of wine or two.
3 readings in 1 day
Comment by Grant Thacker on 23rd January 2010
If it is not illegal it should be to have all 3 readings of a by-law in 1 day.
Comment by Noba Anderson on 22nd January 2010
• Very little hall maintenance has been funded through grants. The heart of the request for core tax funding is primarily this - to support deferred maintenance and infrastructure needs that grants rarely fund. Grants primarily fund programming, not the building itself.
• The core funding request is many years old and long preceded the current acute SCCA funding crunch faced by the possible loss of funds from the Gaming grant. If the present proposed bylaw passes, there will still be time after the SCCA has confirmation about the Gaming grant in mid February prior to the final SRD budget determination in late March. This will allow the SRD board to tax only what required for 2010. The bylaw would provide a pot into which tax funds could be allocated – an overall shell regardless of the year-to-tear taxation.
• This bylaw would NOT transfer control of your community halls to the SRD. This funding service is a grant fund like the grant-in-aid funds. It is as hands off as it gets folks! The halls would submit annual financial proposals to the SRD and the SRD would fund. That’s it. Jobs would not go off island – quite the contrary. If we lose the halls as we know them, jobs will be lost on-island.
• The process to create this service is entirely within the law.
• The grant would go the hall boards. The halls will not be administered by the SRD.

I will be writing another article in the next few days about what I have been hearing and options from here.
Thanks, Noba Anderson
No to bylaw 55
Comment by Grant Thacker on 21st January 2010
I agree with you 100%. The cost of this, administered by the SRD will be way beyond what it costs to run the hall.