A request from the northern part of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) for more funding could result in every other jurisdiction paying 36 per cent more in tax requisitions this year.
The District of Lillooet made an official request late last year that it receive an additional $300,000 from the PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) funds B.C. Hydro pays to the SLRD. Specifically, Lillooet wants funding in relation to the Bridge River 1 and Bridge River 2 power plants that are adjacent to the community, because of longstanding financial issues it cannot address through current funding sources.
The request for additional funding to the SLRD indicated that if the money is not received, residents of the northern part of the regional district will be faced with a reduction in services such as recreation, economic development, airport and fire and emergency management.
According to a report seen by the SLRD board during its Monday (Jan. 28) meeting in Pemberton, the proposed reduction in PILT funding to the SLRD would result in a 36 per cent increase in the tax requisition from all other jurisdictions. That means Whistler would be asked to pay $186,126 more, Squamish $71,202 more and Pemberton $9,662 more. Electoral Areas A, B, C and D would be required to pay $2,971, $1,800, $10,280 and $11,755 more, respectively.
Pemberton Mayor Jordan Sturdy said that amount is not inconsequential to Pemberton as it represents a one per cent tax increase to his residents.
“I am not so dismissive about that particular number and clearly it is an emotional issue,” he said. “I propose that what we are talking about here doesn’t create a solution, it just kicks the can down the road so that next year we can have the same conversation.”
Sturdy said Lillooet should instead look at a boundary change, which is another option for the community as it seeks more money from B.C. Hydro. Whistler director Jack Crompton echoed Sturdy’s call for a more permanent solution, adding that reallocating PILT money in 2013 would pass the problem on to his Whistler taxpayers.
Area A Director Debbie Demare said the issue is not just about dollars and cents, but about the health and wellbeing of the northern communities.
She said the board is weighted in favour of the larger communities in the SLRD and the rural areas to the north are struggling while those to the south benefit from economic development.
District of Lillooet director Kevin Anderson said the SLRD is supposed to consider the long-term planning and governance of the entire district, but “there has been a pattern of dismissal going on over successive boards where the north has been marginalized.
“We have been going through a little bit of a tough patch and we are trying to address our infrastructure needs and set us up for the future and this is a small part,” Anderson said.
The SLRD continued its budget discussions on Tuesday (Jan. 28). However, final discussions on the PILT issue are not expected until another meeting of the board.
Crime Stoppers seeks support
Residents and visitors to the Sea to Sky Corridor are using the local Crime Stoppers network to fight crime in local communities, but like many non-profit volunteer organizations, it could use more exposure.
Crime Stoppers board members Larry Murray and Gordon Prescott were in front of the SLRD board to present information on the effectiveness of the program locally and requesting financial support in 2013.
“We provide a very cost-effective program that essentially deputizes every single person in the region,” Murray said.
In addition to the $2,500 funding request, which was forwarded to the SLRD budget process for this year, Murray said the organization would like to see signage on Highway 99 near the communities it represents from Bowen Island to D’Arcy.
“Our efforts here with brochures and posters… help, but they are not as eye catching to the 20,000 people that live in the region or the 25,000 that visit Whistler on the weekends,” he said. “We are requesting support from the SLRD for a sign program on the highway.
“We know that is going to be a big effort.”