The Sunshine Coast Regional District board has capped the renovation cost for its new offices at $2 million, raising property taxes by about seven per cent in 2004.
The SCRD bought the old Ministry of Forests office on Field Road for just over $1 million and is preparing to renovate and expand the building. The plan is to move into the Field Road building in January, 2005.
Part of the cost will be covered by the sale of the SCRD's old offices. The Green Gables building on the corner of Teredo Street and Wharf Avenue has already been sold to Coast Reporter for $338,000. The main SCRD office is also for sale.
The remaining cost of renovations will be funded by a property tax increase. Rather than holding a referendum on the tax hike, the SCRD is using its other legal option, a counter-petition, which allows citizens to oppose the tax increase.
The board debated at length over how much to spend on the renovations, questioning the estimates of $80,000 for a new roof and $50,000 for water-conserving landscaping.
John Rees, director for Pender Harbour, said the original estimate for the renovations was $1.6 million, but the amount seemed to grow by $100,000 or more at each new discussion.
"We have to set a limit on where we're going," said Rees. "I'm afraid we'll end up with a fast ferry boondoggle."
Barry Janyk, Mayor of Gibsons, called the $2 million limit "not only reasonable but generous."
"This project has ballooned. I for one would like to see it stopped [at $2 million]," said Janyk. "For those kinds of funds, we could get what we need a building the public can be proud of, staff will be happy with and the board can work with over the next 20 years."
But John Marian, director for Halfmoon Bay, said while he wants the renovation to be as bare-bones as possible, the extra cost to get an "optimal" building was minimal when considered over the long term: 44 cents more annual property tax per $100,000 of property value.
"It's not very much," said Marian. "It's appealing to be conservative, but if we're conservative simply for the sake of it, we need to look at the long-term effect."
Adrian Belshaw, director for Roberts Creek, agreed, saying SCRD staff will have better productivity and less sick time if they work in comfort.
"We're serving the public at large better if we make sure the people working for them and for us are working in optimal conditions," he said.
The $2 million cap on renovations passed with only Belshaw and Marian opposed.