Islands Trust’s proposed 2021-22 budget projects a 3.26 per cent tax increase for the overall Islands Trust Area and a general property tax levy of $7,063,284.
An additional 0.87 per cent in new tax funds will come from new development and construction to contribute to covering the Trust’s $8.8 million operating budget.
The potential mill rate (tax payable per $1,000 of assessed property value), which Island Trust says the provincial surveyor of taxes calculates following Trust Council’s approval of the annual budget, was not available as of press time.
Total operating expenditures are slated to increase by $741,890, or 9.2 per cent. More than half of that comes from an increase in salaries and benefits costs including two bylaw officers and a two per cent wage increase for union staff and up to one-and-a-half per cent increase for excluded staff, as per union agreements and BC Public Service policies. Two other positions, for Islands Trust Conservancy’s new species at risk program, will be covered by a grant received from Environment and Climate Change Canada. Grant funding covers $407,000, 4.6 per cent, of the overall budget.
Some other increased expenditures proposed are $62,350 associated with strategic plan and Trust Council-directed projects and $53,615 in rising insurance and legal costs. Spending on capital assets is slated to drop by $65,400.
The proposed budget draws $602,000 from accumulated surplus funds to pay for climate and strategic plan projects, local trust committee projects, Salt Spring Island freshwater projects and a review of Islands Trust governance, management and operations.
In addition to maintaining existing service levels, the budget also puts funds toward developing heritage preservation overlay maps ($30,000) and climate-action initiatives including updating the Islands Trust policy statement ($10,000), completing phase one of a freshwater sustainability strategy ($30,000), developing model bylaws for local trust committees/Bowen Island Municipality that exchange bonus density for affordable housing ($10,000) and, similarly, developing model development permit areas to protect Coastal Douglas-fir and associated ecosystems ($5,000). Continued implementation of the Trust’s Reconciliation Action Plan is budgeted at $17,000.
Budget highlights along with a public survey, open until Feb. 7, are available at www.islandstrust.bc.ca/budget. Trust Council will approve the final budget at its next quarterly meeting, March 9-11.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder