New firehall process good; parcel tax idea bad
I have heard and read some complaints from citizens about the funding mechanism and the approval process for the new Cowichan Bay Fire Hall.
First let’s talk about the (alternative approval process) AAP. While it may seem like a backwards way to get a “yes” from taxpayers, it is actually a far better way of engaging citizens than having a vote at an annual general meeting. Speaking from my own experience in Mill Bay, when the fire board has sought approval from taxpayers for large purchases at the AGM, including a new fire hall, we have usually had less than 10 taxpayers attend the meeting. This in spite of the required advertising done in advance to advise taxpayers of the impending major expense. The AAP process is very well advertised and extensive information is available so that all property owners can make a well-informed decision to support the (much needed) new facility, by doing nothing, or not support it by submitting their objection and negative vote.
The other complaint is about the plan to fund the expense based on assessed property value where expensive properties pay more, versus a “parcel tax” where everyone pays the same amount. To me it seems crazy to think that the owner of a mobile home on a small lot, or a modest old house in a subdivision should shoulder the same burden as a 10-acre estate with a mansion on the ocean. The result of this “parcel tax” approach would mean that those who own modest homes would pay much more, and those who have luxurious properties would pay much less than with the current plan. Which would hardly seem fair.
Further to this, having a fire department is much more of a financial advantage to those with more expensive homes because if the fire department did not exist, they would see a doubling or tripling of their insurance premiums, which are also based on the value of the home.
Of course, I understand the burden that property tax puts on property owners with modest incomes, but the Province of B.C. offers a very generous “tax deferral” program for people over 55, persons with disabilities and those with dependent children. There is no shame in deferring your property taxes if it helps you to live comfortably and retain your home. In fact, many people use tax deferral as an investment strategy, since they feel they can earn more than the interest charged by investing that money in the market. The taxes do not have to be paid until the property is sold or transferred, and it is extremely likely that the property will continue to appreciate in value far faster than the unpaid taxes will accumulate.
In closing I urge you to support the current efforts to get a new, safe, modern emergency response facility/fire hall for Cowichan Bay. Your community needs it and the volunteers have earned it.