Seeking tax dollars approval for Sportsplex

Seeking tax dollars approval for Sportsplex in Duncan.

Do you want your property taxes to pay to operate the Cowichan Sportsplex I ask this very simple question of the residents and taxpayers of the Cowichan Lake area for a couple of reasons. At the CVRD Board meeting on Aug. 1, the board was considering creating a formal function to provide tax dollars to the society that operates the Sportsplex in a stable and annual format with the ability to increase funding to cover inflation.

In 2012, the Sportsplex requested a regional grant-in-aid for $120,000 and the majority of the board agreed to funding of $100,000. A few short months after we passed the annual budget, the Sportsplex society is back at the board stating they will have a $46,000 deficit this year and could be forced to turn it back over to the Municipality of North Cowichan, the owners, on April 1, 2013, if they don’t receive a cash infusion.

They also explained that they will have to replace the artificial turf within the next decade and the price will be around $800,000.

In my opinion, the Sportsplex Society will need about $200,000 of taxpayers’ dollars every year to ensure they can continue to operate and save enough in their capital reserve to pay for the replacement of the artificial turf.

The way the CVRD currently provides the $100,000 to the Sportsplex Society is through a regional grant-in-aid, and Electoral Area F (4 per cent), Electoral Area I (4 per cent) and the Town of Lake Cowichan (3 per cent) combine to contribute 11 per cent or approximately $11,000 per year. Just to cover the yearly shortfall of $46,000, areas F, I, and the town’s annual contribution would go up to approximately $16,000.

If we somehow agreed to fund the $200,000 amount I’ve calculated and believe they need, our contribution would climb to around $22,000 per year. It is true they may not need the full $800,000 for the capital replacement of the artificial turf if they are able to attract some grant funding.

Some CVRD directors feel (and not me) that Gas Tax grants may be appropriate for the turf replacement project. I believe gas tax funding is meant for drinking water and sewer upgrades, and projects that improve our air and storm water quality.

Here is where I turn to you, friends, neighbours, residents and taxpayers. A basic foundation of local government principles is that the elected officials cannot commit the taxpayer to annual taxation without prior public approval.

That means that if local government wants to spend your tax dollars for a specific purpose, local government must ask you first via a referendum or alternative approval process called an alternative approval process  or AAP.

There must be a public consultation if the CVRD want to create a function to fund the Sportsplex with our tax dollars. I have promised the residents of Area F that I won’t use the AAP to consult with them, unless there is no other viable option. Full blown referendums are very expensive to hold.

The scary part in all of this is that the majority of the board can insist that the results be counted across the region, and not area by area. That could result in the Cowichan Lake area voting solidly to reject funding the Sportplex, and the other heavily populated areas of CVRD voting yes which would force the Cowichan Lake area taxpayers to pay anyway.

At least with an area by area vote, whether it’s an AAP or referendum, we could decide for ourselves if we want to pay our hard earned tax dollars into the Sportplex.

In my time as Area F Director, I have consistently voted against the annual Cowichan Sportsplex grant-in-aid, because taxpayer approval for that amount has never been sought, and obviously a majority of taxpayers haven’t agreed. Please let me know what you think.  or