Approved Island Trust budget includes 3.5% tax increase

·2 min read

Trust Council has passed the Islands Trust 2021-22 budget with a 3.5 per cent tax increase overall for the Islands Trust Area, excluding Bowen Island.

The general tax property levy for all local trust areas is just under $7.1 million. It includes 0.87 per cent, about $59,000, in new tax funds from development and construction.

Islands Trust received $563,000 in federal and provincial grant funding, including for wetland restoration and habitat enhancement in the Coastal Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic Zone.

Total operating expenditures will increase by $548,458 of which $411,992 is for five new staff positions – a full-time bylaw enforcement officer, a temporary part-time community communications specialist, two grant-funded positions for an Islands Trust Conservancy species-at-risk program and a temporary freshwater co-op student position – and staff wage increases. Staff salaries and benefits make up 61 per cent of the overall budget. Trustee base remuneration will also go up 1.1 per cent.

The tax increase in the proposed budget presented for public consultation earlier this year – 953 people provided input – sat at 3.26 per cent. Following discussions at the financial planning committee and other updates, the final approved tax increase rose to 3.5 per cent.

The main changes made at the March Trust Council meeting prior to approval were to hold a second Trust Council meeting in person in the upcoming fiscal year, rather than the initial planned one in-person and three virtual quarterly Trust Council meetings. The second major change was to fund the continued online broadcasting of all public meetings, including local trust committee meetings, a permanent annual expense. That will be funded through taxation now like all other annual ongoing costs instead of through surplus funds as was initially planned, according to Julia Mobbs, director of administrative services.

Of the $657,660 that will be drawn from accumulated surplus funds, $75,000 will go toward a council-directed review of Islands Trust governance and management.

Gabriola Trustee Kees Langereis called the external review, which is to examine the effectiveness of planning services, advocacy activities and governance oversight in relation to delivery of the Islands Trust mandate, a “healthy endeavour.” The terms of reference for the review, which Langereis helped prepare, says the governance and management structure has not had an in-depth overall review since 1989 though partial reviews have happened since then.

Some of the other projects Islands Trust will undertake in 2021-22 include completion of a freshwater sustainability strategy, heritage preservation mapping, development of model bylaws for groundwater use, rainwater catchment and greywater recycling to promote freshwater sustainability and development of model development permit areas to protect Coastal Douglas-fir and associated ecosystems.

Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder