A Regional District of Nanaimo committee voted yes to change how regional parks are funded across the district saying it would create more equity between the regions.
At its May 4 meeting, the regional parks and trails select committee voted to change the funding model for regional parks and trails service to a value tax as of the 2022 budget, which would mean regional parks would be funded by a combination of 50 per cent converted assessment and 50 per cent population, if ultimately also passed by the board of directors.
Under the current tax requisition funding model, regional parks acquisition and capital costs are allocated based on number of parcels, or folios, at a rate of $20, and operating costs based on population.
Back in November 2020, following a motion introduced by Vanessa Craig, director for Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge, DeCourcy), the board requested that data comparisons between the two models, originally presented in a 2017 report completed by Neilson-Welch Consulting as part of the RDN’s parks service funding review at that time, be updated to reflect 2021 budget details. Since 2017, the population, and therefore number of folios the RDN collects a parcel tax from, has increased.
Under the 50-50 model, Area B’s contribution would have been $97,139, which is $25,962 less than what it is paying in 2021 under the existing model. Conversely, Nanaimo, Lantzville, Area C and Area E would all see increases in their tax requisition.
“When we look at how we fund our community parks and other things that are considered a public good, we tend to use a funding formula that does take in assessment and population instead of a straight parcel tax,” Craig said on May 4.
“The way the parcel tax system currently works, you have multi-family residential buildings that are only paying $24 for the entire apartment” building, Ben Geselbracht, director for Nanaimo, who introduced the motion to change funding models, said. “Nanaimo, which has huge use, should be paying its fair share.”
The vote was not about how much funding is allocated to regional parks. Any discussions of that nature would happen at budget time.
If regional parks funding were to increase in future budgets, “which is absolutely inevitable – people have seen the acquisition requests for regions all up and down,” Geselbracht said, changing the funding model is a “proactive step” toward applying the majority of the additional taxation on areas where population density is highest. “We’re seeing that our current parks system is stressed in terms of its usage and not being able to maintain the needs of the parks for maintaining the ecological integrity while having better access for users.”
The board of directors is set to vote on the motion at their next meeting, May 25.
Rachelle Stein-Wotten, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Gabriola Sounder