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General News · 21st May 2010
David Williams
On Monday evening, May 17th., we attended a meeting at the Gorge Hall in Whaletown. We have learned to love this island community over the last eighteen years and have come to recognize that community facilities like the Halls and the Schoolhouse, along with the events they make possible, are important to the social well being of the community. We also know that the good operation, and even survival, of these institutions, is almost always dependent upon the dedicated volunteer effort of relatively few people. This was very apparent at the meeting we attended; a hard working and dedicated board was attempting to bring to the community a series of options as to how they might respond to the need for new sources of funding if the halls were to continue to function as they have. The Hall was facing a deficit position without new funding. One of these sources, probably the only practical one would be a property tax, either a parcel tax or one based on assessment.

We could see that the board had done their homework and were now coming back to the membership of the Whaletown Community Club for direction. They made certain recommendations based on the information they had gathered and a desire to adequately fund the Hall. Among these were for a parcel tax, or a flat tax, where each property parcel would pay the same amount. The amount of tax that would be required to balance the books was only $33.00 per parcel. Another recommendation was, should a tax be implemented, that it be a maximum of $85.00 per parcel. This would reflect a total funding of both Halls should Gaming Grants not be available in the future. This offers protection to the landowner. Other proposals were that the WCC board represent the Society at future discussions regarding a possible tax and that the WCC be required to approve any such tax.

To our mind each of these proposals, framed in the form of motions, was eminently sensible. Aside from the first, whether one supports a tax or not, they serve to give the community, through our society, a degree of control in discussions that affect our future and that of community facilities.

However, it became apparent that a campaign had been developed to oppose any tax and that this was well represented at this meeting. There seem to be several misconceptions about what was actually happening. Many people seemed to think that these motions would, in and of themselves, result in a tax right there and then. The motion recommending a Parcel tax was defeated, but that requiring WCC approval for a tax was passed. That any tax should not exceed $85.00 was passed, but that saying the WCC should participate in the taxation process was defeated. A motion from the floor was passed that instructed the board chair to write to the Regional District rescinding the letter he had written previously asking the Regional district for information and assistance. This last seemed to be gratuitously mischievous.

The result of the failure to pass some motions and not others, and the addition of the motion from the floor were contradictory and the result was to emasculate the WCC, and hence the Whaletown community, from having any say in future discussions regarding taxation for this purpose. This was puzzling and appeared to us to be rather foolish. Why give up the opportunity to have a say in your own future?

We wondered what could be behind opposition to motions that were only designed to give the community a say, to limit the amount of a possible tax, and to ensure that the fairest type of tax, should one be implemented, would be the one adopted. A few things became apparent. Several people don't want to be taxed at all to support these community facilities, even though most of them use them from time to time. Others resented the fact that the bulk of a possible tax would go to support Manson's Hall where the need is greatest. By themselves these are perfectly understandable and legitimate positions, whether one agrees or not. But that they should have been expressed in contradictory fashion as a result of confusion is disappointing. That they were expressed in a fashion that threw the integrity of the board into doubt was churlish.

In the end, the meeting did not ensure that they we not have a tax, and did ensure that we would not be represented in that decision.

The end result, of course, should a tax not be implemented, is that the Halls will cease to function as they have. Programs will have to be cut and facilities will likely deteriorate. Suggestions from the floor that volunteerism could make up for the significant shortfalls that will follow are clearly impractical and simply are unlikely to happen. After all, the volunteer board themselves volunteer much of their time and expertise and have demonstrated deep commitment to the community. They are in a position to know what will and will not work based on past experience with volunteerism.

We are interested to see how this develops.

David Williams
Pat Swift