No new taxes in Sandspit without referendum

  • Mar. 23, 2012 9:00 a.m.

About 30 percent of Sandspit residents have rejected the idea of paying more taxes for their fire department, street lights and community hall in an alternative approval process. The result means the regional district will not be able to put the new taxes in place unless it holds a referendum. According to a report from regional district administrator Joan Merrick that will be discussed at the March 23 board meeting, 79 responses were received opposing increased taxes for the Sandspit fire department, 74 responses opposed a new tax for street lights, and 75 opposed a tax for the community hall and other recreation facilities. The alternative approval process allows the regional district to test support for new taxes. If less than 10 percent of eligible voters object, then the regional district can establish the tax. The 10 percent threshold was calculated at 26 voters for the fire department and street lights and 29 voters for the community hall (because of its slightly larger service area), which means the regional district received three times as many objections as required to halt the alternative approval process. The number of objectors represents roughly 30 percent of the voters list, but it is not a majority. Ms Merrick’s report outlines two options. Option one is to abandon the bylaws and not establish the services. This would leave Sandspit with no money for street lights or to run its community hall (the fire department does receive some tax money; the bylaw would have increased the amount). Option two is to hold a referendum, a more formal and expensive process than the alternative approval process just undertaken. Ms Merrick’s report suggests that the Moresby Island Management committee first gauge public support by holding public information meetings to discuss the proposed services. In the case of the street lights, Ms Merrick offered a third option, saying it may be possible to establish local street lighting service areas based on petitions from the community. Regional district staff have also contacted BC Hydro to find out whether they are willing to keep the streetlights on for another three to six months if the board decides to pursue a referendum. They have also asked BC Hydro whether the lights could be turned on again in the future if public opinion changes. The outcome of the alternative approval process and the options outlined in Ms Merrick’s report will be discussed at tonight’s regional district meeting in Prince Rupert (March 23).