The Comox Valley Regional District board approved third reading of the 2021-2025 financial plan bylaw, which proposes a slight tax decrease this year compared to the 2020 requisition.
The total consolidated budget for 2021 is $148.5 million — $76 million for operations and $72.5 million for capital. Within the latter is the near completion of the $126 million water treatment plant, and initial steps towards $73 million in planned sewer conveyance upgrades, manager of financial planning Kevin Douville said at the March 16 board meeting.
“Overall, year-over-year net decrease in tax requisitions are planned of $226,708, or .64 per cent, from 2020,” he said. “The tax requisition total in 2021 is $35.46 million, versus $35.69 million in 2020.”
A $1 million reduction in the tax requisition for the Comox Strathcona Waste Management service is also recommended — from $6 million to $5 million across the five-year plan.
The district has allocated 95 per cent of $723,000 in pandemic response restart funding as follows:
•$200,000 for emergency operations;
•$100,000 to promote food security, and to support vulnerable populations through the CV Community Foundation;
•$100,000 for information technology to support safe work, public engagement and service delivery;
•$40,000 for rural fire department support;
•$223,000 for recreation facilities, including the sports centre and aquatic centre to offset revenue losses;
•$24,321 for rural community halls support.
Budget projections for transit and recreation — the services most heavily impacted by COVID — are conservative.
“We’re continuing to anticipate decreased ridership and revenues well into 2021,” Douville said, noting transit has benefited from $902,692 in BC Safe Restart funds.
Recreation was the most difficult budget for 2021 due to the uncertainty of COVID impacts. The board approved a $300,000 requisition increase in the service, along with a $223,000 BC Safe Restart grant allocation.
The budget proposal also includes $15,000 a year in 2021 and 2022 to support the CV Social Planning Society and the Accessibility Committee.
A maximum levy is being sought for the two emergency program services. For 2021, Douville said tax requisitions for both services needed to be reduced by $55,600 to ensure compliance with a maximum requisition of $225,000.
Rural community grants budgets (formerly grants in aid) increased by $76,480.
The 2021 revised assessment roll is expected next week, after which the recommended plan will be updated a final time.
Area A director Daniel Arbour commended the board and staff for offering the .64 average reduction.
“At the onset of COVID, we all knew the private sector would be affected,” Arbour said. “We’re in the essential service business. It’s not that easy.”
“I’m astounded we have a slight decrease in our tax requisition,” Area B director Arzeena Hamir added.
The budget will come back to the board for adoption March 30.