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Islands Trust passes nearly $10 million budget for upcoming year

Bowen Island's contribution to Islands Trust rises almost seven per cent from last year

The provincial organization overseeing islands in the Salish Sea approved a budget just shy of eight figures for 2023/24.

Islands Trust finalized the $9.7 million budget at their early March council meeting. It’s an approximate $600,000 increase from last year’s $9.1 million total. Most of this, $8.6 million, will go toward operations, with $651,296 designated for special projects and $134,300 to buy capital assets.

External grants will cover $569,796, nearly six per cent of the budget. Last year’s $768,500 in grant money was a record for the organization.

Bowen Island contributes to the Islands Trust budget annually through a municipal property tax levy. This year’s amount for the group’s lone municipality is $345,989, up from $323,769 in 2022/23. The additional $22,220 represents a 6.86 per cent jump, following a four per cent jump last year.

While Bowen’s overall contribution is higher, much less of the total will be borne by island taxpayers this time around. Just 0.3 per cent of the rise will be levied against residents, while the remaining 6.56 per cent will come from taxing new construction and development in the municipality. Last year taxpayers were responsible for three per cent of the four per cent increase.

The Bowen tax levy has now grown more than six figures in the past decade. The island paid $225,614 in 2013/14, or 3.27 per cent of the $6.9 million budget. As a percentage of the total budget the number has stayed consistent though – this year’s $345,989 is 3.57 per cent of the $9.7 million total.

During October's municipal election, an Opinion Poll asking Bowen voters if they'd like the municipality to renegotiate the formula used to decide how much money goes to Islands Trust received strong support, with the 'Yes' votes claiming 78.8 per cent of the vote. No changes were enacted for this year's calculation, but the renegotiation issue is expected to be visited later this year. 

On nearby Gambier Island, a comprehensive review of the island’s Official Community Plan and Land Use Bylaw will be taking place.

“This was a challenging budget year as the Province of BC has approved new collective agreements that have resulted in salary increases outside of Trust Council’s control. Like island communities, Islands Trust is also affected by high inflation,” said Peter Luckham, council chair, in a news release.

“To keep tax increases low, trustees made difficult choices and compromises as they prepared a budget to support the work to preserve and protect the Trust Area into the 2023/24 fiscal year,” said Luckham.

Some projects Islands Trust has budgeted for the year ahead include a species at risk protection program, support for regional groups such as the Átl'ka7tsem/Howe Sound Community Forum and Rural Islands Economic Partnership, and a stewardship education initiative. New governance and accessibility committees will also be created.

The Salt Spring Island Local Trust Area is contributing $43,500 through a special tax levy for a Watershed Protection Alliance. Other upcoming projects on their island include a Village Area Plan and review of their Official Community Plan and Land Use Bylaw.