The Cowichan Valley Regional District has passed its budget with an average 7.27 per cent tax increase for 2019.
The creation of two new services, drinking water and watershed protection and affordable housing, which were the subject of two successful referendums that were held at the same time as the municipal elections in October, make up 3.52 per cent of the tax increase.
A further 0.21 per cent increase is due to a rise in rates for the Vancouver Island Regional Library, leaving 3.54 per cent of the tax increase for core services that are delivered by the CVRD.
“The costs to deliver almost all services continue to increase, and local governments across the Cowichan region are faced with addressing major challenges that threaten our quality of life,” said Ian Morrison, chairman of the CVRD.
“It is never popular or simple for elected officials, to increase taxes. There are real impacts for residents. Over the course of many meetings, this process included passionate discussion and hard-won compromises resulting in the smallest annual increase to core services in four years.”
Two weeks ago, the CVRD were considering a 9.01 per cent tax increase for 2019, but Morrison said staff and board members were challenged to come up with more ways to cut the tax increase.
He said, after much discussion and debate, the decision was made to cut the district’s regional parkland acquisition fund from $750,000 to $150,000 for the year, reducing the tax increase by almost two per cent.
“There’s still money available this year for select purchases (of park land),” Morrison said.
“The board can decide to restore funding for the regional parkland acquisition fund to normal levels next year if it wants. The budget process was protracted more than usual this year because it was a tough challenge to get our new directors up to speed on all the information. It was steep learning curve for them, but all directors played an active role in asking questions of staff and other board members and seeking clarifications during the process.”
Drafting budgets for the CVRD is a complex process as its annual budget is made up of 180 individual budgets.
These budgets include regional services paid by all district residents, and electoral area services such as planning and service-specific budgets like water and utilities.
The differences in tax rates across the CVRD stems from the amount and types of services each region in the district has agreed to participate in and pay for.
Tax increase implications in each area of the CVRD:
Electoral Area A
Average home- $600,146: Tax increase of 6.27 per cent, or $74.58 per home.
Electoral Area B
Average home- $572,756: Tax increase of 8.35 per cent, or $111.81 per home.
Electoral Area C
Average home- $579,409: Tax increase of 7.9 per cent, or $94.47 per home.
Electoral Area D
Average home- $478,703: Tax increase of 6.06 per cent, or $72.48 per home.
Electoral Area E
Average home- $467, 961: Tax increase of 8.09 per cent, or $80.81 per home.
Electoral Area F
Average home- $470,456: Tax increase of 7.71 per cent, or $88.96 per home.
Electoral Area G
Average home- $448,052: Tax increase of 4.82 per cent, or $30.12 per home.
Electoral Area H
Average home- $550,953: Tax increase of 12.94 per cent, or $81.82 per home.
Electoral Area I
Average home- $526,727: Tax increase of 8.43 per cent, or $107.34 per home.