A hand holding Canadian money

Where did Cortes Island’s property tax dollars go in 2021?

How our local government worksPart 1 of 5 from the Feb 5 SRD Board Meeting

The proposed budget for 2022 was one of the principle topics at the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Board Meeting on Wednesday, February 9th. Part of this process involved looking into the finances for 2021. So in the first of a five part series arising from that meeting, Cortes Currents is looking into how the SRD is spending the portion of our tax dollars under their control. 

Roy L Hales photo
The meeting starts at 5:57 in the video above

Many Cortes Island residents have probably noticed that they are paying about the same amount for property taxes in 2021 as they did the year before. While this will change in 2022, it may only be by about $47 for the average home.

Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson explained, “because the tax rate is going up, [and] the actual requisition per hundred thousand is going down.”  

As house prices go up, the requisition amount per $100,000 goes down – Proposed 2022-2026 Financial Plan, Strathcona Regional District

SRD Chief Financial Officer Mike Harmston said, “Electoral area B had one of the highest assessment increases for any of our areas. So they’re going to be the most effected by the shift.  Area B is primarily residential, so there’s not a big impact.”  

He was talking about the SRD’s portion of property values, which Anderson added is perhaps a little over half of the total bill.

She listed a number of services that receive funding from property taxes through other avenues than the SRD:

  • schools
  • police
  • hospitals etc

As might be expected in a rural community like Cortes Island, the three big ticket items are government services, the fire department and parks. 

Most of the government items fall into one of three categories: corporate, regional and electoral services, 

Here are some of the biggest expenditures: 

  • Administration and General Government – about $33,000
  • Electoral Area Administration about $81,000, 
  • planning $69,000,   
  • Vancouver Island Regional Library – $66,000. 
Tax allocation for the fire department – courtesy proposed Financial Plan.

Some other items of interest: 

  • A little over $16,000 for the 911 Emergency answering service
  • $11,000 for the Strathcona Emergency programs
  • and more than $10,000 towards Regional Broadband (the SRD is providing 10% of funding for the high speed internet coming to Cortes Island.)   

The total for all Corporate, Regional and Electoral Areas services is $292,239.00, a little over a third of our taxes.

Cortes Island is Area B within the SRD and in the section labelled ‘Area B expenses’ Harmsworth added an estimate of the cost per household. 

Thus we know that Cortes Islanders paid out $234,275  – or about $254 per household – for the fire department. 

Tax allocation for parks – courtesy proposed Financial Plan

There are 15 parks, spreading out over 1,868 acres of Cortes Island. They cost $178,000, which works out to about $191 per average property. 

The two most politically controversial items over the past two years have been funding for the island’s two community halls and Grants in Aid.  

Tax allocation for the community halls – courtesy Proposed Financial Plan

The budget for funding the halls was set as ‘up to $80,000,’ but the requisition for 2021 was actually $10,000 less. This resulted in a surplus, which was transferred to reserves. The average homeowner paid a little over $75 towards the Mansons and Gorge Halls.  

A little more than $25,000 is allocated to Grants-in Aid. As Cortes Island does not have the built up infrastructure of more settled areas, non-profit organizations provide many of the services. While they often have some paid staff, the backbone and often much of the workforce is provided by volunteers. In 2021 the SRD gave grants in Aid to seven community organizations: 

Tax allocation towards Grants in Aid – Proposed Financial Plan
  • the Cortes Community Economic Development Association,  
  • Climate Hope, 
  • the Cortes Island Museum, 
  • the Cortes Island Community Health Association, 
  • Cortes Community Housing Society, 
  • Cortes Community Radio Society,  
  • Klahoose First Nation  
  • the Cortes Literacy (Folk University Program).

$27 from the average Cortes Island property tax assessment went towards these organizations.

Some other Area B expenses of interest:

  • $58,000 for garbage disposal
  • and $21,244 for the First responder program, which is now in its second year. 

When he brought the budget to the SRD board, Chief operating officer David Leitch said,” I think in my seven years here, this is our most impressive budget over real challenging times amongst COVID and all the challenges that we’ve had throughout it.”

Director Anderson added, “I really appreciate there being budget details this year, last year for the first time I couldn’t support the budget because I didn’t have that. So I really appreciate that back and Mike, I appreciate your reserve summaries and every service.”

First Responders – courtesy proposed Financial Plan. The Cortes Fire Department emailed that the $65,305 raised in 2020 and 2021 (right column, above) were spent as follows: $18,448 went to the SRD ($622 in Legal; $5,271 Advertising; $2,589 Staff Travel; $341 Title; $1,212 printing/ballots; $6,000 Labour; $2,413 admin); $29,500 for 11 days of training 9 volunteers to the OFA3 emergency medical standard; SRD also established a reserve of $17,550

One of the specific items she mentioned:

“There’s a little graphic that’s incredibly useful that I would love to see at an aggregate level. So in every function you’ve got a tax requisition and rate per a hundred thousand, Mike, that shows over the course of the last five years perhaps a budget and a service might increase ever so slightly but because the tax rate is going up, the actual requisition per thousand is going down. That’s just a super useful graph.”

This article was originally published on Feb 14 and republished on Feb 19, 2020 as part of the Saturday Round-up.

Public disclosure: The author (Roy L Hales) is a former president of one of the non-profit organizations mentioned in this report – the Cortes Community Radio Society.

Top photo image: Where are Cortes Island tax dollars going? – Photo by Tom Francis via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency: