Yellow apple core with piles of coins

Where do Discovery Island property tax dollars go? 

How our local government works – Part 2 of 5 from the Feb 9 SRD Board Meeting

Electoral Area C is the largest electoral area within the Strathcona Regional District. It spreads out over 10,650 square kilometres: from Quadra throughout the Discovery Islands to some of the Mainland Inlets. The vast majority of people live on Quadra. In the second of five articles arising from the SRD Board meeting of Feb 9th, 2022, Cortes Currents is looking at how the tax dollars from this area were spent in 2021 and a proposed budget for 2022. 

The meeting starts at 5:57 in the video above

There has been an explosion of real estate values.

As SRD Chief Financial Officer Mike Harmston explained, homebuyers “are willing to pay 30%, or 40%, or 50% more. That’s what’s causing the shift in the assessments.”

Comparison of Quadra Island home prices to SRD tax requisitions from 2018 to 2021

Regional Director Jim Abram pointed out that this rise does not necessarily reflect sales in your area: 

“Right on my tax assessment bill this year it says there have been no sales of a property similar to yours in the last three years. So this is politics in Paris, used to be really more. They’re just grabbing straws out of the air.”

The good news is that while housing prices have been going up, tax assessments per $100,000 have been going down

SRD tax requisitions in 2021 and proposed budget for 2022Proposed 2022-2026 Financial Plan, Strathcona Regional District

This SRD’s proposed budget calls for a $20 rise in their component of the average property tax bill, which should rise from $489 this year to $509 in 2022. (Last line in graph above.)

Further property tax increases could come through other public bodies. Funding for the Quadra Island Fire Department, for example, is levied through the South Quadra Improvement District. The SRD does not raise money for the police or schools either. 

There are also items in the SRD’s books that do not require funding through property taxes.

The wharves at Owen Bay on Sonora Island, Port Neville on the Mainland and Surge Narrows on Read Island, for example, are “currently funded by Transport Canada divestiture funds.” The segment of the chart that would normally display tax requisitions for these projects displays a zero. 

Similarly, the Quathiaski Cove Sewer extension has a ‘0’ requisition rate because the project is actually funded through the 43 properties who benefit from this project.

Close to two thirds of the property tax revenues under the SRD’s control goes to corporate, regional or electoral area services.  

The biggest ticket items in these categories are: 

  • A little over $204,000 for electoral area administration
  • $172,000 for planning
  • $167,000 for the Vancouver Island Public Library
  • $83,000 for corporate administration and general government

Some other items of interest:

  • $41,000 for 911 Emergency Answering Service
  • $29,000 Strathcona Emergency Service 
  • $27,000 towards Regional Broadband

Roughly a third of SRD’s tax requisitions are actually listed under ‘Area C.’

The two largest entries in this category are:

  • $190,000 for Parks
  • $175,000 for the Quadra Community Hall

Area C also has a Grant in Aid budget of close to $41,000 a year, but also sufficient surplus from previous years to cover 2022. 

Some of the smaller items listed under ‘Area C’ include:

  • $20,000 for economic development
  • $7,000 for street lighting in Quathiaski Cove
  • $1,250 for heritage conservation
  • $1,200 for feasibility studies
  • $250 for the Quadra Island Fire Department for emergency response to north Quadra Island

The SRD Board is currently reviewing a draft budget that calls for a $20 increase in the amount they requisition from Area C through property taxes in 2022.

CAO David Leitch said, “I personally think the numbers are quite good.”

Director Abram said he didn’t expect 80% his constituents to understand how the shift in real estate values affects property taxes.

Leitch assured him that SRD staff would explain.

This article was originally published on Feb 15 and republished as part of the Saturday Round-up on Feb 19, 2022.

Top photo credit: Yellow apple core with piles of coins Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

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