Three per cent tax hike for Lake Cowichan

Lake Cowichan property owners can look for a three per cent tax increase this year, according to Mayor Ross Forrest.

Ross Forrest

Ross Forrest

Lake Cowichan property owners can look for a three per cent tax increase this year, according to Mayor Ross Forrest.

Aging infrastructure means Lake Cowichan is on a road to renovation this year, Forrest said Tuesday, Jan. 24, explaining that “through good fiscal management and grant opportunities” the town is “continually addressing those deficiencies.”

But, that’s not all.

The town also wants to continue to enhance its amenities and increase the standard of living for residents.

Councillors have been following their aim of keeping tax increases as close as possible to the cost of living “while still trying to provide the necessary services our citizens have come to expect,” he said.

Budget talks have been proceeding recently and council has almost completed its 2017 budget estimates “with many capital projects being considered and approved.”

The Town of Lake Cowichan is growing “at a nice steady pace”, but that means that future needs have to be addressed as well and looking at the community’s financial capacity to meet those future requirements.

For some of the projects, this has meant moving ahead now so as to take advantage of chances for grant money that means Lake Cowichan is paying less than 20 per cent of the cost.

“By undertaking these projects with approved grants, it allows us to move forward on these very necessary capital expenditures, avoiding the need for absorbing unnecessary costing in the future,” he said.

“It makes financial sense to take advantage of grants as they become available.”

The more notable planned capital improvements this year include:

• Water treatment plant upgrades to meet Island Health’s requirements ($6.3 million estimated cost with $5 million in grant money from federal and provincial governments)

• Greendale Road watermain upgrade ($770,000, of which 83 per cent is funded through grant money from senior governments)

• Greendale Trestle watermain upgrades ($164,000, again with 83 per cent funded by grants)

• Another $426,000 worth of waterworks upgrades are also scheduled for several sites around town (with help from grants)

• Centennial ball park and soccer field upgrade (estimated at $1,124,000, with $500,000 of Canada 150 Infrastructure program money going towards it.)

• Also planned are upgrades to the Duck Pond washrooms if Job Creation Project funding materializes, plus $43,000 for other work around town facilities.

• Paving of Cowichan Avenue from the King George roundabout to South Shore Road (planned cost of $70,000)

• Town hall upgrades planned for 2017, but are still out to tender so no figures are being released yet.

In addition, protective services costs, of which the Lake Cowichan Fire Department is the major component, are all steadily rising because of “the playbook imposed on municipalities”, Forrest said.