SCRD raising residential taxes by 7%

John Gleeson/Staff Writer / Staff writer
March 21, 2014 01:00 AM

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is projecting a nine per cent overall increase in property taxes this year, with residential rates expected to rise by an average of just over seven per cent.

The Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) is projecting a nine per cent overall increase in property taxes this year, with residential rates expected to rise by an average of just over seven per cent.

Based on preliminary numbers following round-three budget meetings, property taxes on a $400,000 home will go up by $127.20 in Elphinstone, $101.73 in West Howe Sound (excluding the islands), $85.08 in Roberts Creek, and $71.59 in Halfmoon Bay (also excluding the islands).

For the same home in Pender Harbour/Egmont, the tax bill will go up by $105.23 for properties on the South Pender water system, $86.53 for properties on the North Pender water system, and $50.28 for Egmont properties on the regional water system.

On the islands, taxes for a $400,000 home are set to rise by $16.44 in Halfmoon Bay, $13.09 in West Howe Sound and $51.68 in Eastbourne.

Properties of the same value in the municipalities will also see substantial percentage increases - 9.4 per cent for the Town of Gibsons, 7.4 per cent for the District of Sechelt, and 7.1 per cent for Sechelt Indian Government District -but the actual dollars raised through taxes will represent less than a quarter of that amount.

While the figure includes all fees and charges and parcel tax, the analysis is only a snapshot, SCRD treasurer Tina Perreault said.

"One of the biggest skews is we're using a $400,000 home with 60 per cent improvements, but community recreation is [taxed] on improvements only, so there's these huge variations," Perreault said.

Despite the tax increases, the overall 2014 budget is up only slightly from last year - $41.76 million compared to last year's $41.41 million - with the operating budget up from just over $30 million last year to $32.25 million and the capital budget down from $11.36 million last year to $9.51 million.

"A lot of what we're doing now is funded by taxation," Perreault said. "We don't have grants for maintenance or operating."

In January, directors approved about $500,000 of new spending items in round one, including $200,000 toward legal fees for the Sechelt Aquatic Centre legal claim, $115,000 for three recreation facility upgrades and $75,000 for the Gibsons and District Volunteer Fire Department.

Other taxation items added after round three include $150,000 for the landfill budget and $125,000 to replace the tile deck in the Gibsons and District Aquatic Facility, with an additional $40,000 allocated from reserves for the pool project.

The balance of the landfill budget deficit and shortfall, which totaled $486,000, was covered by reducing the contribution to post-closure reserves by $100,000 in 2013 and 2014 and earmarking funds raised from eco-fees.

To fund a curbside recycling pilot project for Halfmoon Bay and Roberts Creek, about $25,000 in taxation was added for each of the two areas.

SCRD board chair Garry Nohr said the budget increase did not sit well with him, but reflected the multitude of challenges facing the board.

"To me, it's a budget that's high," he said, "but with all the things that have come to fruition this year - the transit plan, the parks and recreation master plan and Multi-Material BC -and also when you look at improvements to the Gibsons pool and the big problem with green waste, all of these add up."

The floor replacement at Gibsons pool, he said, was necessary "just to keep it open, because the provincial government said for health reasons they'd have to close it."

Other spending was approved with a view to reducing future costs, he said. "When you look at energy and asset management, that's for long-term cost reduction."

Nohr said the variations in tax rates between areas are due to several factors, including the different functions each area participates in and BC Assessment changes, which hit Elphinstone hard this year and shifted industrial assessment for independent power projects from West Howe Sound to Halfmoon Bay.

The SCRD is spending about $250,000 annually on youth services, and Nohr said one task this year will be to ensure there is no duplication of resources. With the province and Ottawa downloading some services on local government, Nohr said the board committed years ago in its strategic plan to work with youth on the Coast.

"So it's one that the regional district has taken on. You can also take on too much," he added.

Reporting on the SCRD budget at Tuesday's Gibsons council meeting, Coun. Gerry Tretick said the tax increases would pay for services the Town has requested, such as better transit, improvements to the pool, zero waste and investments in fire protection.

"Essentially the budget is what it is because it has to be," Tretick said.

© Coast Reporter

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