Cowichan Valley Regional District sees tax protest before passing budget


Around 200 people showed up to the Cowichan Valley Regional District board meeting on Wednesday to protest the planned tax increase.

Depending on where you live in the region, the tax increase could be as high as 19.33 per cent, which spurred locals to come to the meeting to air their frustrations.

“It’s ridiculous other places are five, eight per cent,” said Reg Ogden, a Shawnigan Lake resident “Why is it that we got to be spending that kind of money?”

With the planned increase, some residents were worried about their ability to pay the new rates.

“My annual taxes now are $11,716 that is a hell of a lot of money to try and keep my property. The CVRD is trying to make me homeless right now,” said Shelagh Bell-Irvine, a Shawnigan Lake resident.

More than 3,200 people have signed an online petition saying the tax increase is excessive.

“I was shocked and one of the reasons that I felt I needed to start a petition was because I sat up all night thinking about it. How are we going to budget? How much money needs to go towards increases like this?” said Jackie Broughton who delivered the petition to the board.

The protest preceded the CVRD meeting where it was poised to pass its budget.

There was not near enough room for everyone.

“Shame on the CVRD. This is really bad. We could’ve moved this venue to a larger area,” said Gary Orton, who left after not being able to sit in the at-capacity board room.

The Cowichan Valley Regional District noted the meeting was broadcast live online.

The board chair says there are multiple factors pressuring its budget including higher spending on policing and emergency management which he calls a downloading from the senior governments.

“We’re unfortunately more and more being asked to spend on issues that typically haven’t been the function of local government,” said Aaron Stone, the board’s chair.

Higher library costs, an accounting change in recreational spending approved by referendum and inflation are other cost pressures.

“The presures of inflation are compounded in local government. You look at the core cost drivers of local government, employee costs because a lot of employee costs are tied to inflation, those get pushed up. Similarily fuel consumption,” said Stone.

The board voted not to top up its park acquisition fund from $900,000 to $2.5 million, which will save about three per cent.

Late Wednesday afternoon the board approved the budget with final adoption, a formality, at the next meeting.

A municipal consultant said in January that property taxes were likely to see higher than average increases this year.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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