General News · 8th September 2017
September 9th, 20017
To the Strathcona Regional District Board
We write this letter of protest against Ms Noba Anderson’s request to “follow through”, in your September meeting, with a petition by certain Cortes Island residents and property owners. The petition seeks tax support for funding of two community halls for our small population of ~1000 people . In reply, Noba published her taxation plan on the website, cortesisland.com, on Sept 4. We saw her plan today and residents without access to the internet cannot see it before Friday, Sept 9, if it appears in print at all. Noba requests any replies to your board by Sept. 11. This short time effectively eliminates a chance for any meaningful debate and community reply. In essence, her plan repeats the same question defeated in 2010, without any new attempt of consensus building. If adopted it would leave the community divided into different hostile groups, irrespective of the outcome. Her request should be rejected for this reason alone. However there are other reasons.
Our protest is directed more against the manner of proceedings and the choice of a taxation model than the principle of a reasonable tax support for the halls. Noba has declared in a public meeting before her last election that she would not reopen the hall tax issue. Now she brakes this promise and with it the trust of the community. Consequently, there is a new urgency to safeguard against further treachery in form of abusive tax spending. Referenda could be appended to general elections in order to save costs.
Her principal source of input on the hall tax come from the South Cortes Community Association (SCCA) and the Whaletown Community Club (WCC), both of which are private clubs that represent their private members, not the community. Yet both are planned to be recipients of the tax. The WCC has thus far not announced its support for a new referendum.
Our strongest objection relates to the choice of a flat rate parcel tax (“meaning every parcel of land pays the same amount”). Parcel taxes may be logical for issues relating to the subdivision of land, such as accessibility issues. However, the halls are principally entertainment centers for people living in households. If an equitable taxation is wanted it should be organized along households, not geographic land parcels, e.g. as a flat rate household tax. The proposed parcel taxes would be unfair, arbitrary and not equitable because Cortes bylaws permit different numbers households on parcels in different zones. Thus people sharing large parcels would pay only small fractions of the tax payable by most. Remarkably, Noba’s abode is on a large lot shared with households of several friends. She claims that her un-elected “alternate director”, Mary Lavelle, cannot represent this case because of a conflict of interest. She ignores her own conflict of interest in her choice of taxation model.
No doubt, the planned limitations of $85 per year per payer, and $79,000 per year total amount collected, can be reached by fairer taxation methods. What is entirely missing in her plan is a description how such limitations would be maintained through time while costs are changing. Perhaps she simply plans for unspecified and unchecked tax increases later. What we need is a mathematically defined plan for the future.
In her article 5 Noba talks about spending limitations to ”operating and maintaining community facilities including enlarging and improving such facilities” where “operating shall be limited to core expenses, meaning electricity, heating, garbage collection, telephone and fax, internet services, property taxes and insurance.”
This article must be rewritten to indicate what, if anything, cannot be paid with these funds. As presented, this list alone seems to be designed for large, unspecified future expense and tax increases. Unfortunately one of the planned recipients of the tax revenues, the SCCA, has a history of irrational expenditures. E.g. well over $100,000.- were spent for a kitchen, without any evident justification or plan of use.
In conclusion, the proposal to be presented to the electorate is fundamentally flawed, both in general layout and details. It does not represent a collective opinion of the petitioners and does not reflect the wording of the petition. It does not specify the planned usage and future size of the tax with sufficient precision for the voters to understand what they vote for. We need much more debate and planning before a referendum question can be worded properly. This request for a referendum should be denied, or at least replaced by a proper useful proposal.
This protest only considers the petition presented to Noba and her plan to forward it to you. A large number of residents still reject the entire tax idea and raise the question as to why any tax is necessary, history having shown that it is not. How often do we have to hold a referendum on the same question? If tax lovers win now, will tax haters be given access to a new referendum a few years later? We could play tax ping- pong indefinitely. A director should show more leadership and consensus building efforts in an attempt to find a viable compromise, compatible with the peace on our island, in a different new proposal.
Respectfully submitted by
Dietrich Schwarz Irmgard Schwarz
Box 266, 502 Olmsted Rd
250 935 0245
Comment by Walker Evans on 9th September 2017
I've talked to a lawyer who said that your petition is invalid because it uses the plural 'halls' without receiving permission from the executive of the WCC or Klahoose halls. Therefore it would be inappropriate to hold a referendum.
Too many unanswered questions by SCCA and our RD
Comment by Jack on 8th September 2017
Thank you Dietrich!
This issue has again been forced into being in a bullying manner. No public discussion, no good reasons for needing a tax, no plan or accounting for monies already spent by SCCA, it goes on.....
By the way, our Regional director apparently said that all letters on this subject must be submitted to the SRD prior to 11 September. However, The SRD position is that since there has been no petition submitted as yet, comments on a hall tax cannot be accepted at this time. Nice!