On Thursday, the CVRD hosted an open house at the Cowichan Lake Curling Lounge to discuss the district’s preliminary 2017 budget.
CVRD staff, elected representatives and around five members of the public were in attendance for the event, which lasted about an hour and explained the proposed costs outlined in the budget, focusing in on how residents of Lake Cowichan, Area F and Area I would be impacted.
“This is the first time the CVRD has gone out into the community,” said Mark Kueber, general manager of corporate services, of the open house meetings taking place throughout the Valley.
“Historically there would be none of these meetings, historically there would just be the commission meeting taking place and the public would be able to attend and ask questions. Also at the CVRD head office there will be various committee and commission meetings and the press or the public is free to ask questions.”
There were similar public meetings about 15 years ago, however, these were held at the district’s head office and would take place in a single day.
Brian Carruthers, chief administrative officer, kicked off the open house with an explainer on how regional districts function; a breakdown of the regional, sub-regional and electoral area services; how the CVRD passes bylaws; and regional district finance.
The PowerPoint presentation used by Carruthers and Kueber is available on the CVRD’s website.
In the budget, the two biggest cost-drivers for the Cowichan Lake area are solid waste expenses and Cowichan Lake Recreation.
Some of the costs associated with solid waste are the barging fees and U.S. exchange rates (the Valley’s solid waste is shipped to a site in Washington State), leakage and a solid waste plan amendment.
“Solid waste is one of those unusual functions where even though it’s large, it’s actually spread amongst the entire electoral regional district, the electoral areas, as well as the municipalities so the impact is not as large as some of the smaller functions,” said Kueber.
The two biggest expenses associated with Cowichan Lake Recreation’s proposed budget are the arena chiller’s replacement and digital signage. The chiller is an essential piece of equipment for maintaining the ice surfaces; if the current chiller, which is getting old, was to breakdown, the arena could lose more than four months of revenue in the time it takes acquire and install a new one, which is why it is seeking to purchase one now.
An average home in Area F is valued at $320,000 which means they pay $1,119 in taxes to the CVRD; for Area I, the average home is valued at $340,000 which works out to $1156 in taxes. In Lake Cowichan, the average home is valued at $217,000 and pays $536 to the CVRD.
Kueber explained this discrepancy is because member municipalities also have their own property, municipal, rural and police taxes on top of the regional district requisition.
During questions from the public, one man expressed his discontent with increases in the preliminary budget, citing proposed upgrades to Arbutus Park in Youbou.
“My point is, the continuance of our leaders taking money out of our pockets to do things that most of us don’t agree with,” he said. “Every time I come to one of these meetings, all I ever hear is increased staff, increased floor space, increase in cost at every turn.”
He also said the event was poorly advertised and speculated that might have been responsible for the low turnout.