Amidst the controversy already surrounding the Alternative Approval Process, the Cowichan Valley Regional District is unrolling yet another plan to use it — this time for residents of Electoral Area E (Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora).
The regional district sent notice on Thursday, Dec. 10, that it intends to increase taxes in Area E to pay for “the addition of four streetlights in 2014 and an increase in BC Hydro fees,” according to a news release.
“This is an issue that came up before my time,” Area E director Alison Nicholson explained. “Four new streetlights were installed and there weren’t sufficient funds in the service function to cover the cost of installing them and running them and it wasn’t dealt with quickly…now we kind of have to go forward or else we have to turn the lights off.”
The 2014 budget ran a $277 deficit for this function.
“With the increase in the number of streetlights and higher hydro costs it is anticipated that this budget will be further in deficit by $1,500,” said the report.
The board does have the authority to increase the maximum permitted requisition by 25 per cent without the consent of the electorate “but this is not adequate to cover the costs of the additional streetlights,” according to a staff report.
Area E residents currently pay 41 cents per $100,000 of property value for the service. The potential 55-cent hike would see that jump to up to 96 cents per $100,000 of assessed value.
The goal is to more than double the maximum requisition limit from the current $3,000 to $7,000 to cover the increasing costs of the street lighting service.
Nicholson understands that people are worried about their taxes.
“It’s unfortunate but that’s the way it is. I don’t anticipate a problem,” she said. “People kind of ‘get’ critical streetlights.”
Nicholson said the community asks for lighting in areas they think are unsafe, “like bus stops and stuff,” she said. “If we want to keep the lights on, we have to pay for them. We can’t run deficits. In order to keep the lights we have to pay. It is small but every little bit adds up.”
But Nicholson admitted it’s hard to know these days what electors will push back against.
She did note that one of the CVRD board’s top priorities come the new year is to look at the Alternative Approval Process and when it would be better to hold off until a referendum.
“The board is taking this issue really seriously and we’re going to take a good hard look at how we manage going forward,” she said. “Referendums are expensive. We have to pick and choose carefully.”
For this AAP, residents will have until 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 25, 2016 to register their opposition with the CVRD. If 10 per cent of the electorate in Area E — that’s about 340 residents — fail to submit elector response forms, the plan to increase taxes will go ahead.
If 340 or more electors do submit forms, the board would be unable to adopt Bylaw No. 3956 unless a referendum is held.
Forms, which can be picked up at the CVRD office or downloaded online, must be returned either in person or by mail to: 175 Ingram St., Duncan, B.C., V9L 1N8.