Financial staff at the Cowichan Valley Regional District are being tasked to prepare a report on alternative ways to build the district’s annual budget.
The CVRD’s committee of the whole made that decision at its meeting on April 27 after a long discussion over a recommendation from staff that the district set a five per cent target as the tax increase for 2023, and begin the budget process for next year based on that.
The average tax increase for 2022 for property owners in the CVRD is 4.09 per cent, the board decided last month, while the tax increase in 2021 was 2.48 per cent.
But many of the directors at the table on April 27 took exception to setting a target of a five per cent increase next year.
Mike Wilson, director for Cobble Hill, said from what he’s seen from the plans so far for the budget for 2023, he expects the tax increase could be significantly above five per cent.
“I wonder if anyone has actually been to a grocery store lately and looked at the prices of, for example, cauliflower?” he asked.
“People out there can’t pay their bills and yet we’re looking at adding at least five per cent over everything else. I can’t support that.”
But Board Chair Lori Iannidinardo, who is the director for Cowichan Bay, said setting the target at a five per cent increase is just a starting point in the budget-building process for next year.
“This is our professional [financial] staff and this is the direction we need to go,” she said.
“We’ll have meeting after meeting on this and that will continue. This is something we need to give [staff] direction so we can have the process move ahead.”
But Ben Maartman, director for North Oyster/Diamond, said he would like more information before making any decisions.
“Being new [at the table], I’m struck with the idea that there are other processes available [to build a budget for the CVRD],” he said.
“We are following what we did last year and perhaps the year before, but I’m not sure I understand what other processes are out there and which is the best to fit the needs of the board and the community. I want to refer this back to staff to explore other options.”
Shawnigan Lake director Sierra Acton said she appreciated Maartman’s motion to refer the matter back to staff.
She said it’s probably time the CVRD begins to think differently about how it prepares its budgets.
“Not that staff is doing anything wrong, but the world is changing and we have to spread out every single dollar and penny so we are functioning as best we can,” she said.
“Are we looking at all our avenues of income and profit centres? This system was designed many years ago so I think we can do better and have those conversations before we make these decisions.”
The majority of directors voted to send the issue back to staff.