Despite aiming for an increase of no more than two per cent, the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s 2012 budget has jumped by 7.63 per cent.
The budget, passed on March 28, amounts to $28,144,120 — up $1,997,049 from 2011’s $26,147,071 budget.
The increase in tax, meanwhile, ranges from 3.67 per cent in Lake Cowichan to 8.63 per cent in Sahtlam/Glenora/Cowichan Station.
“The largest single increase can be found in the CVRHD (regional health) budget,” CVRD Chairman Rob Hutchins explained.
That increase amounts to about $18 per household.
“We have continued to raise funds toward a new hospital. Two years ago we raised $1 million, last year $2 million, this year $3 million. Our share of that hospital will be more than $50 million and it is considered prudent to raise funds in advance.”
CVRD watchdog Bill Dumont, however, is less than impressed with the increased burden on taxpayers.
“The bottom line is they never look at the bottom line,” Dumont said of the overall budget.
Dumont was present during much of directors’ budget talks, and said he heard lots of talk about a 30 cent increase here, or a 10 cent increase there, but very little about the big picture.
“They never look at the overall budget, and how it sneaks up,” he said.
“The federal and provincial governments are cutting back, and here these guys are knocking it up by an amount that is not sustainable,” he added.
Dumont says the CVRD’s “rubber-stamping” budget process justifies the provincial government’s appointment of a municipal auditor.
“I just feel it’s very unfair to taxpayers to go for this level of an increase during a time when the economy is still sick,” he said. “We’ve got Catalyst employees who’ve taken a huge wage cut to keep their jobs, and industry in this province is still not healthy, and these guys are going into the taxpayer cookie jar and taking, because they can.”
But Hutchins noted the CVRD has to pay for the services it offers.
“Our bottom line goes up by the addition of additional services,” he said. “(Taxpayers) will be experiencing an increase in the range of 3.67 to 8.63 per cent — higher than many would wish, especially in challenging economic times, but the board of the CVRD believe it necessary to provide adequate — expected — service levels, and in many cases ensure there is appropriate capital investment in aging infrastructure.”
CVRD tax breakdown per $100,000 of assessed value
Duncan: $132.80 (7.03% increase)
North Cowichan: $128.16 (8.30% increase)
Ladysmith: $54.18 (6.78% increase)
Lake Cowichan: $204.43 (3.67% increase)
Mill Bay/Malahat: $204.69 (5.89% increase)
Shawnigan Lake: $246.67 (4.19% increase)
Cobble Hill: $216.94 (4.02% increase)
Cowichan Bay: $261.53 (5.49% increase)
Sahtlam/Glenora/Cowichan Station: $214.09 (8.63% increase)
Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls: $276.25 (4.07% increase)
Saltair/Gulf Islands: $129.16 (3.85% increase)
North Oyster/Diamond: $106.21 (5.89% increase)
Youbou/Meade Creek: $270.51 (3.78% increase)