Cost of qRD taxes per average home rises for City of Powell River and electoral areas A, B, C and D

qathet Regional District (qRD) directors have adopted the regional district’s 2024 to 2028 financial plan.

At the March 28 regional board meeting, directors unanimously carried three readings and adoption of the bylaw.

On first and second reading, Electoral Area B director Mark Gisborne said the bylaw was the result of a lot of discussion around the regional district’s financial plans. He said this is why in January he wanted to get the costs of individual services over the last 10 years, so directors could see where costs were going.

“What are we doing in relation to fiscal restraint?” asked Gisborne. “I know we really can’t change this bylaw and we have to adopt it, otherwise the province will be very unhappy with us. There are a number of things I have noticed in compiling the data over the last 10 years.”

Gisborne said general administration in 2014 was $580,000. In 2024, it is $2.14 million, and by 2028, according to the financial plan, it is going to be approaching $3 million. He added that solid waste management was roughly $260,000 in 2014, and the figure is more than $3 million this year.

“It’s going to continue to increase each year and I’m wondering, or wanting us to be cognizant as we go into the next year, what are we doing in relation to fiscal restraint? These are very steep increases over a 10-year cycle. They have far out-passed inflation and population growth. It makes me wonder how much of this is provincial government downloading and how much is maybe internal.”

Gisborne said if it was provincial downloading, maybe qRD could push back.

“It is something I find very concerning about the future of the community and the affordability of living in this community,” said Gisborne. “That being said, I’ll vote in favour of this bylaw, but I want us to all be aware. I’m uncomfortable, but I understand how we got here, and I won’t be a stick in the mud when it comes to adopting this bylaw, which is facing very significant tax increases across the board.”

Lengthy discussions

Electoral Area E director Andrew Fall said directors struggle and had spent seven hours trying to find solutions in the finance committee.

“There’s items the board asked for, so we do more things, there’s items the community asks for, and then what we are doing costs more,” said Fall. “It’s not just inflation, which is a given, but there are things with provincial downloading, so the services we are providing, we need to put in more resources to make them happen.

“There are emergent issues, like in our fire departments, where we are taking better care of our volunteers. It comes in multiple directions and it’s up to the board to be careful when we are asking for service changes and we want to do more. We really need to look holistically and long term so we can keep trying to do what we have been doing and if we want to do more, just being well aware that we’ll need the resources to do it.”

Electoral Area D director Sandy McCormick said the combination of a number of things happening in the same year is making it difficult to keep a reasonable tax rate compared to what people can afford.

“I don’t think it is going to be reasonable this year,” said McCormick. “It is going to be huge, but each one of those things individually is worthy of pursuing. We should support the bylaw. We’ve already had so many discussions about whether or not projects should happen. We kind of have to go ahead.”

Electoral Area C director and board chair Clay Brander said he was proud of qRD staff and what the board has done. He said there have been a lot of changes in the last 10 years and there are more challenges that the regional district has faced.

“I’m convinced we are moving forward in an efficient and responsible way to try and deliver the services to the public in the best way we can,” said Brander.

The committee then carried the motions presented to adopt the five-year finance plan.

According to a qRD media release, the 2024 budget will total $29.6 million, including a net operating budget of $15.6 million, capital spending of $8.5 million, and total debt payments and transfer to reserves of 3.5 million. qRD has also applied for and obtained total grant funding of $5 million to assist with many planned projects in 2024.

According to a table in the qRD five-year financial plan report, cost of qRD taxes per average home for City of Powell River in 2024 is $507.46, up $117.26 from 2023. For Electoral Area A, the cost per average home in 2024 is $1,509.41, up $111.77 from 2023. In Electoral Area B, cost per average home in 2024 is $1,175.45, up $116.55 from 2023. In Electoral Area C, the cost per average home in 2024 is $1,322.92, up $118.50 from 2023. In Electoral Area D, cost per average home in 2024 is $823.41, up $65.98 from 2023.

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