The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board is recommending a referendum be conducted for the continued use of a parcel tax to fund the activities of the Shuswap Watershed Council on a permanent basis.
At its May 18 board meeting, directors voted unanimously in favour of taking the issue to a full assent vote for all eligible voters in Electoral Areas C, D (Falkland), E, F, and G and the District of Sicamous. The assent vote and its associated bylaws needs final approval from the Provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs before officially proceeding.
The Shuswap Watershed Council is a non-profit group focused on protecting, maintaining and enhancing water quality and promoting safe recreation in the Shuswap. Members represent the CSRD, Thompson Nicola Regional District, Regional District of North Okanagan, City of Salmon Arm, District of Sicamous and the Secwépemc Nation.
The Fraser Basin Council, a provincial non-government organization, is contracted to provide staff services to the Shuswap Watershed Council until March 2024.
Currently the Shuswap Watershed council is funded through a parcel tax of $9.02 per property. A parcel tax is a flat rate fee applied to each parcel of land in the proposed service area.
A majority of the CSRD board voted in favour of continuing to fund the Shuswap Watershed Council through a parcel tax at a rate that would be applied equally to all affected Electoral Areas and the District of Sicamous.
The new maximum parcel tax rate is estimated to be $9.64 per year for each taxable parcel in the proposed service area. This referendum would only apply to Electoral Areas C, D, E, F, and G and the District of Sicamous, as the City of Salmon Arm and other participants have different methods for paying into the Shuswap Watershed Council service.
The board was unanimous in its decision to support taking the issue to a public vote rather than using the Alternative Approval Process (AAP).
In this case, a referendum is projected to cost $75,000, where the Alternative Approval Process costs were estimated at $2,500. Despite the higher cost of going to a referendum, directors indicated a referendum was a solid investment in the democratic process.
“It’s important to take this to the ballot box,” said Electoral Area C Director Marty Gibbons. “Let the taxpayers decide.”
Approval from the province will likely take six to eight weeks. If approved, more information will be provided regarding the referendum date and voting opportunities.