RDN tax increases modest

In the near future, the sewage treatment plant will require some taxpayer money

At 0.6 per cent, the property tax increase in chair Bill Veenhof’s Electoral Area H, is the best, or lowest among modest increases in the Regional District of Nanaimo, he said.

The regional district’s portion of property taxes are increasing by up to 4.9 percent, with the largest increase in Parksville, but the actual impact on your taxes will depend on property assessment changes.

For example that 4.9 percent increase in Parksville means the RDN will collect that much more from the municipality due to assessment increases, but residents would only see a $1 increase if their property value stayed the same, explained Director of Finance Wendy Idema.

A $300,000 house in Parksville paid $565 in total RDN-related taxes last year and would pay $566 this year.

The total property taxes collected by the RDN from Qualicum Beach will increase 3.3 percent, but the taxes for a $300,000 house with no property value change, would actually drop from $498 to $489.

Sticking with the unchanging $300,000 residential property, the other RDN tax changes in this region are a drop from $359 to $353 for Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay), an increase from $474 to $478 in Area F (Errington) and a drop from $483 to $473 in Area G (French Creek).

In chair Veenhof’s Area H (Bowser) the RDN requisition would drop from $466 to $454, but as he points out assessment changes mean the average property will pay 0.6 percent more.

“People argue against using percentage increases, because that doesn’t talk about dollar amounts, but the hard truth is residents on the ground look at percentage increases,” he said.

The percentage increases are: 4.9 percent for Parksville, 3.3 percent for Qualicum Beach, 2.2 percent for Electoral Area E, three percent for Area F, 4.8 percent for Area G and 0.6 percent for Area H.

He said the biggest RDN changes this year are taking place in the Nanaimo or southern areas and will not affect people in the northern areas.

“On the horizon there are upgrades to the French Creek pollution control plant that we’ll be watching in incoming budgets,” he said of longer term plans that show up in this budget.

For example $1.58 million, or 45 per cent of the total RDN requisition from Qualicum Beach, is for the regional plant, he said.

The 2016 budget adds Arrowsmith Search and Rescue (ASAR) as a service area, meaning the RDN will provide $10,000 a year in regular funding, charging a requisition of $0.10 per property in the relevant areas.

This is the RDN’s 107th service area, Veenhof said of the budget categories that are targeted to specific geographic areas.

The 2016 budget also drops a $1.40 parcel tax for the Island Rail Corridor after the RDN recently cancelled a funding commitment.

Veenhof said one of the things he was most pleased about for local residents in this budget was the end of taxes to pay off the Ravensong Aquatic Centre renovations done a few years ago.

“We borrowed money to repair the pool and this year the borrowing ends, because we’ve paid off our debt, so there’s no longer a reason to requisition for taxes.”

He said there was some discussion about continuing the tax to build up a fund for future expansion of the pool, “but we argued successfully that we went to the taxpayers to borrow money to repair the pool, so now it’s time to stop the borrowing.”

He said if people want more work on the pool in the future the RDN will start the process again with another referendum and new borrowing.

Asked about this budget’s impact on his own Electoral Area H (Bowser) Veenhoff said, “What stands out is we’ve had three years of really low tax increases.”

“And at the same time we’re doing things in the area, an OCP (official community plan) review costs money. We’re enhancing trails, which costs money but we’re doing it.”

“As an area director I’m reasonably pleased that staff’s given us a budget that is efficient and effective.”

He said in Area H the budget is “pretty much status quo, there’s no real jumps on anything.”

He added that in the rural electoral areas parks and recreation account for around half of their taxes, which he admitted sounds like a lot, but said overall “I’m pretty happy with the budget.”

The 2016 total combined operating and capital budget for the RDN, which governs the rural areas and provides some services like recreation and transit within the municipalities like Nanaimo, Parksville and Qualicum Beach, is increasing by 8.5 percent to $136.6 million.

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