Salt Spring Incorporation News

Salt Spring Island is in the middle of an incorporation study.  Basically the study will look at the pros and cons of Salt Spring going from and unincorporated area into a municipality.

 

Here is a copy of the Preliminary report; 2015-10-30 SSI Incorporation Study Preliminary Report FINAL

Today I went to the open house and taped the presentation for you, here it is;

Nov 22, 2015 open house Fulford
My question is at the 57:20 mark.

Here is the Q&A portion from the presentation in Ganges on the 23 Nov 2015.

Day two open house Ganges

I have mixed feeling about incorporation.  The government model we have now seems so broken but sometimes I wonder if it’s just the model or the people running the model.  My big concerns are property taxes paid for services rendered.  June and I have had our property taxes go from a low of $380 to the current $3500 or so over the last 15 years.  Most of these increased have gone to our library, pool and fire department.   On Salt Spring we are not getting a ton of services for what we pay and I think I’m paying too much now and do not want to pay more.   No one wants to pay more.  Will a municipality cost us more or not is basically up in the air.  No one really knows.  Is the system we have now that broken it can’t be fixed?  You tell me.

Here is a link to the official Incorporation site

Cheers Scott Simmons

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Comments

  1. Scott
    We’ve seen our property taxes go up and down with assessments so it is not easy to do an apples to apples comparison, however “Urban Systems” is probably the worst name for an consulting outfit to sell incorporation to rural minded Salt Spring Islanders. We’ve had decent success in the last few years at voting more balanced personalities into positions, particularly the Fire Dept and the Trust. It does come down to the people, islanders wanting power positions are not going to change with a change of governance.

    Property owners do however have a lot of power under the current system of governance. Currently ratepayers, if we pay attention, can vote people into these Improvement Districts that better serve our needs and desire to contain the costs and taxes. Under a Municipal model, unionized salaries and administration costs become an issue as is the case with the Fire Dept. Nothing personal against unions, it is just that they bring top dollar urban wages to a rural environment of average salaries, mostly self-employed people with variable incomes. The actual operating budget of the fire dept. has not gone up appreciably from the basic $700,000 it was 12 years ago with the volunteer department. It is the base rate salaries of $1.85 million that keeps increasing and can’t be ‘budgeted’ that has us in a stranglehold there.

    With Incorporation, a Municipality will likely want at least a $7,000,000 budget to match the ‘look and feel’ of the Library, to build a Municipal Hall and maintain it, then would come all the unionized civil servants required to support six councilors. I suspect the operating budget will be enormous, like the Library went from a volunteer organization at maybe $15,000/yr to a current budget of well over $500,000/yr and we know it’ll never go down. Sure, the more democratic Municipal model would allow all islanders to vote in any referendums (which would not actually be required anymore), but ratepayers would be totally vulnerable to all residents voting on big ticket items with you know who left to pick up the tab.

    I think there are a number of things being missed here in this report which really should be looking at the advantages of Incorporating, not at the expense of the entire island but rather just a township Municipality for Ganges. Clearly the advantages for business taxes going down is a big plus for incorporating Ganges. This would leave people in the rural areas out of the equation.

    I do not see anyone voting for higher property taxes, roads and police costs, when the people currently running things will still be the ones wanting to run things. Since councilors would not even have to be residents it opens up the door to a different sort of vulnerability for ratepayers, similar to the Trust’s off-island administration, the taxes we pay for their wages do not circulate within our island economy. I actually do not have any mixed feelings about taxes going up anyway, it is just that right now, under our decentralized mess of a system, disregarding the sneaky use of the Alternative Approval Process we’ve seen, ratepayers have pretty much had the exclusive power to vote on all big ticket items through referendum and so the additional taxes we get are only the ones we approve.

    Nothing of course controls things like the CRD board recently voting to double their salaries in one fell swoop but a council would have the same power. Anyway it is discussion, I hope some people respond here with a focus on the positives because I am not seeing them as clearly anymore. Over to you Eric 😉

    • Great post Paul you made some really strong point that I agree with. I do think the incorporation will fail this time around just like last time because as I see it I see very little in actual benefits for most residents on the island. I agree with your view on the union employee cost which is one that has been downplayed in the report.

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