Islands Trust seeks input on a draft budget that could see Gabriola Island residents in line for a 1.5-per cent tax increase, with some tax dollars going to climate-action initiatives.
The organization of local governments covering islands on the Salish Sea is proposing an $8.18-million budget for 2020-21, which would see $383,650 of reserves spent to balance the budget. Scott Colbourne, trustee for Gabriola, said he and a colleague co-sponsored a climate crisis declaration last March and that has been considered in strategic planning and the budget.
“This is very much a climate action budget and of course, this is something we need to get the turnaround going quickly and so we decided as a trust council to dip into the surplus to sort of [take] extraordinary measures that are necessary…” Colbourne said. “It was a matter of some debate at trust council. Some people made some very good cases for a zero per cent increase or to not go into surplus as much, but it was decided because of the extraordinary circumstances that we see ourselves with the climate crisis that we need to take action.”
Environmental-minded projects in 2020-21 include an eelgrass and kelp bed mapping project at $50,000 and development of a regional freshwater strategy, budgeted at $4,000. While the trust is currently working on coastal Douglas fir protection, it won’t be reflected in the upcoming budget. Staff said work will continue as part of usual work of the Islands Trust Conservancy and project information from the current year will be incorporated into local planning practices.
Tax dollars are also set for testing live-streamed meetings. Colbourne said $2,500 will go towards audio-visual hardware, $3,500 for an encoder and $1,000 for a private streaming service.
The proposed budget also takes into consideration a two-per cent wage increase for B.C. Government Employees Union workers on Gabriola Island and a two- per cent increase to trustee’s base remuneration.
Gabriola Island residents saw tax increases of two per cent in 2018-19 and again in 2019-20.
An online survey for Gabriola taxpayers is available online and public comments can be submitted to Islands Trust until Sunday, Feb. 9. Final approval is expected at the trust’s quarterly meeting on Salt Spring Island from March 10-12.
More information is available at www.islandstrust.bc.ca.