Solid waste complex drives up CVRD budget increase for Ladysmith, North Cowichan

The Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board of directors has adopted the 2017 budget with and overall tax increase of six per cent.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District’s board of directors has adopted the 2017 budget  with and overall tax increase of six per cent which varies by electoral areas and municipalities.

Some of the driving costs of this year’s tax increase include a new Cowichan Flood Management service starting this year, a Regional Recreation Master Plan, new emergency preparedness workbooks.

Property tax costs vary across the regional, including Ladysmith, North Cowichan and Electoral Area G, based on the services each pays into.

In Ladysmith property tax costs went up 6.68 per cent, or $17, for an average home valued at $289,360. The total tax levy is $267 based on those figures.

In the District of North Cowichan the increase is 5.5 per cent, or $27, for a home valued at $300,840. The total cost for the average household is $510.

In Electoral Area G, which includes Saltair and Gulf Island, property taxes were up 6.76 per cent, or $38, for an average home of $336,901 paying $596.

Solid waste complex resulted in the largest budgeted cost increases for Ladysmith (6.83 per cent), North Cowichan North End (7.10 per cent) and Electoral Area G (7.95 per cent)

North Cowichan Mayor John Lefebure said solid waste has been a bit underfunded in the past few years and needed a catchup.

Other external factors also hit all governments hard.

“We were hurt on solid waste two ways: a lower value dollar means that our cost to ship our waste (Washington) went up significant and another way we got hurt was the metal we collect went through the floor,” Lefebure said.

For example, the contract for service of waste export was up $227,688, or nine per cent, for a total of $2,616,788.

The CVRD remains “progressive,” Lefebure added with a couch and chair program that “now allows residents who pay a small fee to have their furniture disassembled.”

Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone said the municipality is the third largest contributor to solid waste complex and each household pays around  $26.47 per $100,000 household assessment.

“It doesn’t include the collection, it’s just the management of everything once it arrives at the transfer station so the recycling, the multi-material BC program (MMBC), garbage being sorted and shipped

The Regional Recreation Master Plan is an important component of the budget for local residents. It  will look at everything from facility usage to overlaps in programming.

“So trying to schedule things between all of our recreation centres and investments in our areas to try and fit what people are actually doing,” said Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone.

“The goal thought is to come up with something that does make sense and recommend that to the board and if the board adopts it then it would become an electorate question (in 2018).”

Ladysmith residents may be asked to decided in 2018 if they’d like to keep recreation as a local tax levy or a service that’s managed by the CVRD.

More generally, Stone said there can be advantages to sharing in the cost of services.

“We’re 85,000 in this whole big geographic stamp of the regional district. We will see better savings over time if we stop trying to silo everything up,” Stone said.

“I don’t know how far we’ll get but it’s getting better. We’re having the conversation about recreation.”

Emergency Planning and Emergency 911 also led to small increases for the municipalities.

This was due to capital costs for infrastructure upgrades and new Emergency Preparedness Workbooks, which offer advice on preparing and dealing with emergencies.

“For a significant amount of our community it will deal with wildlife and the need to reduce fuel load if you’re next to a forested area,” Lefebure said.

A new Cowichan Flood Management Service starts in 2017 paid for by all the areas within the Cowichan River watershed.

Next to solid waste, the largest cost drivers in the CVRD budget for North Cowichan and Ladysmith was transit.

Stone said in terms of transit there was a change in the service in recent months to connect Ladysmith and Duncan.

“It wasn’t a big change in the budget but we’ve changed the service so that within our existing service hours we feel we’ve improved service by offering the ability for students, seniors, workers to be able to commute back and forth to Duncan.”

“Improving the quality of service makes it a better value even though there’s not a big change in tax requisition.”

Lefebure noted there was a 5.17 per cent increase to North Cowichan’s transit  tax levy but it will balance out in the future.

“We’re in the final year of changing the formula of how we pay for transit to straight assessment formula,” he said.

To see a breakdown of the tax impact for the average home, visit http://www.cvrd.bc.ca/DocumentCenter/Home/View/9540