General News · 24th March 2010
Where to from here?
The Southern Cortes Community Association (SCCA) has been requesting for years that the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) give consideration to supporting our community halls in part through property taxation. In 2009, the SCCA board formally expressed their support to put the question to the electorate, which was done through proposed bylaw 55. The Whaletown Community Club (WCC) also supports this position. 99 opposition forms were needed to defeat the bylaw during the alternate approval process, 221 forms were received and in Feb 2010 the bylaw failed.
A committee of WCC & SCCA board members and myself has been struck to conduct a community discussion and bring forward a new bylaw for your consideration for the 2011 tax year. This letter is the first part of that discussion and will be followed by more community meetings and other opportunities for opinion gathering.
Unlike municipalities, regional districts cannot tax into a general pot and then support various programs from those funds. Unless a service is provincially mandated (admin, emergency services, planning), every service that the Regional District provides must have approval of the electorate. There are three ways to gain electorate approval.
1. Petition for Service – a petition requesting service signed by enough electors to represent more than 50% of properties and 50% of assessed property values. This allows for the ‘yes’ side to participate as well as absentee property owners, including non-citizens of Canada and other non-electors. This ‘approves’ a new service by director consent.
2. Referendum - like an election, one voting day and one advance poll provide the chance for electors on both sides of the issue to be heard. No absentee ballots are allowed, no minimum number of cast votes required, and a simple majority would prevail.
3. Alternative Approval Process – the process used in January / February whereby 10% of the electorate negates electoral consent. This allows only opponents to be heard, both on-island and by mail in forms.
There are two different types of taxes that could be used in this situation, either in isolation or in combination. Each option would include a maximum taxation amount (maximum requisition) in a straight dollar amount and/or an amount per $1,000 assessed value.
1. Straight assessment based taxation –
This is how the significant majority of land taxes are calculated. A property is taxed based on its assessed value, both land and improvements. The tax may also be apportioned and levies on land values only or on improvement values only.
2. Parcel tax -
A straight parcel tax would tax each property the same amount, regardless of value, size, attribute or location.
A differential parcel tax allows properties with different land attributes to be taxed differentially including lot size and amount of frontage (either road or water).
* SRD staff, SCCA & WCC board members clarify options.
* WCC & SCCA formally request SRD staff to assist in the drafting of a new proposed bylaw.
* SCCA & WCC publish financial status and taxation options for community consideration.
* Input is sought regarding a possible more broadly accepted tax proposal.
* SCCA & WCC draft a new tax proposal for consideration.
* Formal consultation with SCCA & WCC membership and with the community at large regarding the new tax proposal.
* A draft bylaw comes before the SRD board for 1st and 2nd readings.
* The Cortes community is informed of the draft bylaw and can make comment. If requested, another public meeting could be organized at this time.
* The proposed bylaw comes before the SRD board for 3rd reading.
* Unless a petition for service has been received, the proposed community hall service bylaw is formally put to the electorate either in the form of a referendum or an alternative approval process. If a petition for service is received it negates the need for the other two processes.
Nov / Dec:
* Bylaw return to the SRD board for defeat or final adoption depending on whether or not electoral approval has been received.
If the proposed hall service bylaw fails, I will not recommend that it return in any new form for 2012. If the bylaw passes, this service will be added to the 2011 tax roll.
Ongoing Input & Community Control
Some people have raised the concern that the tax amount would be determined by the SRD without appropriate community engagement and would spiral out of control. In an effort to be responsible and transparent, at its February Annual General Meeting, the WCC passed the following resolution:
That: Whaletown Community Club membership approval is required for a tax requisition if we wish to engage in core funding.
The Southern Cortes Community Association intends to put forward a similar resolution at its AGM in May. The requisition amount then requires Regional District board approval (and in essence electoral area director approval) during its annual budgeting process.
The clause in bylaw 55 that raised concern about the SRD taking over operations of the Cortes halls can be removed. The intention of the service is to be a straight ‘grant service’ where the SRD simply collects taxes and turns the money over to the halls. While the halls will be required to report on how the money is spent, there will be no interference by the SRD in the operation of the halls.
Thanks for your continued attention to this important matter.