Residents of the Cowichan Valley Regional District won’t be getting a tax break from the district during the COVID-19 crisis.
Aaron Stone, chairman of the CVRD, said that unlike municipalities that have until May 15 to adopt their budgets for the year, regional districts must have theirs completed by March 15, and the provincial government said it was not willing to extend the deadline this year.
He said the CVRD’s budget for 2020 was adopted in December, along with advance approval on selected capital works, and that timetable allows the district to get a head start on key projects and operate through the entirety of the fiscal year with an adopted financial plan in place.
The CVRD’s budget for 2020 for its nine electoral areas ranges from a tax decrease of 2.12 per cent in Electoral Area C (Cobble Hill) to a 6.65 per cent increase in Electoral Area H (North Oyster/Diamond).
“Unfortunately, it is not possible for the CVRD to amend the 2020 budget now to reduce the tax requisition for residents this year,” Stone said.
“As the province collects taxes on behalf of the CVRD, it is also not possible for the district to change penalty dates. This is the responsibility of the government of British Columbia.”
But Stone said the CVRD has provided what modest relief it is able to during the ongoing health crisis by extending the discount period for CVRD utilities by six months to help alleviate what financial pressures it could.
“We also continue to advocate for relief from the provincial government in the form of a ‘Hardship Deferral’,” he said.
“To date the government has not indicated a willingness to provide additional relief to residential property owners. The government has, however, provided some relief to local government and businesses in the last week.”
Stone said that for the relief of local governments, and in particular regional districts, during the pandemic, most of the government’s provisions to date have been to allow the district to borrow from its reserves to compensate for lost revenues that have occurred as a result of program cancellations, facility closures and other reductions to non-tax revenue sources.
“Unfortunately, with the very different legislation governing regional districts, none of the provisions to date have made providing further tax relief for 2020 possible at this time,” he said.
“As I’ve indicated previously, regional districts are quite limited in terms of flexibility to provide near-term financial relief, in contrast to municipal governments. This is a challenging and unprecedented time for everyone. I want to assure that the CVRD board and staff are working hard to ensure the best outcomes for everyone in the region.”