We’ve all heard the expression, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Taxes may seem simple and straightforward, but as far as Area B taxes go, they are commonly misunderstood. The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD) is a complex government structure that arguably does not serve our local needs as well as it could, but I will leave that discussion for another day. I will cover the basics and should you wish more information, I would suggest the CVRD website be your next stop. Your “property taxes” are actually made up of multiple taxes, of which, the Area Directors can only influence (need a majority) the CVRD line item. The other taxes such as Fire Protection, Hospital, Education, Parcel, and Rural Tax are set out and managed by other jurisdictions.
The CVRD provides mandated and community requested services. If you have never been a developer or built a house you may not know this, but the CVRD has many departments including: planning, building inspection, legislative services (create bylaws, runs transparent meetings, etc), engineering services (approves and manages water-systems), finance, emergency services (responsible for 911 towers and response) and Environmental services (creating the plans for the Province, flood plain mapping, water quality testing, water quantity testing, etc.) just to name a few. Many of these services are paid for by everyone in the region. Sub-regional services such as Kerry Park Recreation and South Cowichan Liquid Waste Management are paid for by the Areas that are covered by the services in question. Local services such as Community Parks and the Community Centre are entirely payed for by Area B. Furthermore, you are only taxed for a service if you receive it (e.g. if you are connected to the Beach Estates Sewer.) Many of the regional services we may not actually notice locally, but they are mandated by the Province and must be part of our planning and legislation.
Assessments of a properties value are made by BC Assessment (which is managed provincially) every year and are based on sales in the local area. In Shawnigan Lake (Area B), assessments are generally much higher than anywhere else in the CVRD because we are closer to Victoria (among other things.) Since the average assessed value is higher, we do end up paying a higher percentage for a given service if it is regional or subregional. This is because the allocation of taxes is based on assessed value and are not “flat-rate” (e.g. by population.) Despite this, we still only have one vote at the table (that’s me).
Something to note, Area B is not formed by natural boundaries, it was drawn by someone for the Province in the 60’s. Area B includes parts of Cobblehill and Cowichan Station on the other side of the Koksilah River. This is unfortunate because sometimes they are forced to pay for a local service that is geographically inconvenient for them to use (e.g. the Shawnigan Community Centre).
On your property taxes you will also see a separate tax called Rural Tax, which is charged to unincorporated areas. The same rate is charged throughout the Province (with the exception of the Peace River Regional District) to all properties in a given property class. This means exactly what you think it means; every residential property in an unincorporated area pays this tax based on that individual properties assessed value, which means that if the assessed value is 3 times the value of a similar property in say northern BC, then that property pays 3 times the taxes. This Rural Tax is a general tax that goes into the Province’s general revenue. The Province determines how much revenue they need to raise for the year and sets the provincial rate in order to raise that amount of revenue. Because it goes into general revenue, it is impossible to say exactly how it will be allocated, but it does cover things like secondary roads and the RCMP.
This year the CVRD tax (budget) increase for Area B will come in around 2.5%. This increase is mostly due to the Library Budget (which I opposed) and the Regional Parkland Acquisition Fund. I strive to find a balance between social, economic and environmental concerns when voting for or against specific budget items. The Regional Parkland Acquisition Fund is a regional function (meaning everyone pays for it) and it is designed to help save for future land acquisitions. If an important property came along, these funds would be available to help the CVRD acquire it. I have taken the perspective that we need to be able to react quickly when there is an opportunity preserve important ecological and recreational spaces for the future.
As always I'm available for a conversation, Sierra Acton.
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