With a referendum on the Shuswap Watershed Council underway, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District board voted against clarifying how the service would be funded.
Wednesday, Aug. 16, was the first day of advanced voting for residents of the District of Sicamous and electoral areas C through G, who have been asked if they support a bylaw that would see them funding the Shuswap Watershed Council (SWC) through a “maximum annual taxation of $180,000 or $0.0167/$1,000 of net taxable value of land and improvements, whichever is greater?”
The following day, at the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board meeting, Electoral Area F director Jay Simpson said he’d received many related comments and questions, including why the board is waiting until after the referendum to decide on the taxation model to fund the service: a parcel tax or ad valorem.
“One of the concerns that we have is really, there’s all kinds of information flowing in many directions and an unknown of this nature is really problematic for the people because it’s one more thing they can’t kind of put a finger on, that we can’t tell them firmly this is how it’s going to work,” said Simpson, who put forward a motion that the board go with a parcel tax.
Electoral Area E director Rhona Martin also shared concerns around the spread of misinformation, including comment that, should the bylaw receive the public’s support, water meters would be required, as would water testing, and that the service would cost individuals thousands of dollars.
“They’re talking about the huge increase in taxes to pay for this $180,000 even though they’ve been paying for this for several years now,” said Martin, who supported the motion.
Electoral Area G director was adamantly opposed to making this change mid process.
“The motion that’s on the floor is not part of the bylaw and can be changed by the board after the bylaw is completed,” said Gibbons. “So to me, what we’re doing is very misleading and an attempt to shore up a yes vote.”
Electoral Area G director Natalya Melnychuk and Electoral Area A director Karen Cathcart supported the motion, saying a decision now would create clarity. Electoral Area D director Dean Trumbley argued it would be a knee-jerk reaction made mid-stream that wouldn’t “achieve the calmness we think.”
“My position on it is we let the referendum ride and we have the discussion when the public has given us the direction, as opposed to creating a decision mid-stream and creating even more confusion and feeding that rumour mill even more,” said Trumbley.
Board chair Kevin Flynn agreed.
“Yes, it might provide some clarity, but… it may just cause more confusion, and I think we need to stick to the process knowing that if the referendum passes, we will make a decision on parcel tax versus ad valorem at that time,” said Flynn.
The motion failed with a majority of the board opposed.
Advanced voting dates include Wednesday, Aug. 16, and Monday, Aug. 21. General voting day is on Saturday, Aug. 26. Polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on voting days. Eligible voters may cast their ballot at any polling station in the region. For more information, visit csrd.bc.ca.
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